The Covid-19 pandemic has forced people to keep space between them to prevent spread. You know, social distancing (remember to do it!) However, patient-doctor interactions are still quite precarious, and last year, many doctors got infected by their patients.
This situation jump-started the telemedicine era, where patients can consult their doctors online. To aid this, many remote gadgets and apps have been invented, including an app that can detect the volume of blood flowing in the vessels to determine heart rate, oxygen saturation, and more vital measurements to help doctors with their diagnosis.
Still, there is one apparatus that has always required proximity between the doctor and patient: the stethoscope. The faint sounds provided by a stethoscope and the need for perfect placement makes it unsuitable for use with social distance protocol.
This was a challenge Thinklabs Medicals’ CEO Clive Smith was more than raging to solve after he first learned that a regular stethoscope’s acoustics had not changed in 200 years. Thinking it was an easy problem, he got to researching. By the time he made a prototype he was satisfied with, it had been 8 years.
A new-age Stethoscope
Thinklabs stethoscopes, launched in 2003, are digitized stethoscopes that allow doctors to listen to auscultation sounds from a distance. They can connect to Bluetooth devices like headphones or speakers, or can even transmit sounds through zoom.
“In the current clinical environment, flexibility is critical. You can listen to our device through PPE with standard headphones or a loudspeaker; through walls from an adjacent room using Bluetooth, and through the Internet on telemedicine. We even give away a free audio transmission channel called thinklabs.live. It’s an absolute game-changer. The only thing you can do with a conventional stethoscope is stand within two feet of a patient, with almost no protection, while you struggle to hear pathological sounds.”Clive Smith, Thinklabs CEO and Founder
For Smith, the stethoscope’s acoustics are priority.
As for the placement, he explains that doctors can help guide the patient during telemedical encounters. In the hospital, health workers can place the device on the patient while wearing full PPE, and listen using bluetooth. Moreover, the company also provides an app that shows waveforms if anything needs to be recorded.
Since their initial release, Thinklabs’ stethoscopes have been used by different hospitals in the US, and now around the world.
For example, John’s Hopkins used these devices for their pediatric pulmonology research and in infectious disease units with Ebola patients. Mount Sinai Hospital in New York used them to keep track of critical patients they discharged in anticipation of COVID patients. Additionally, it is being used for teaching at Harvard University.
Smith says that the pandemic has caused orders for the device to increase exponentially. Quarantined physicians could monitor their patients from home and they were even used in drive-through health centers.