istethoscope: The iphone app set to replace physicians stethoscope


Medial apps for smart phones are advancing at the rate of a heartbeat.  Last week we reported an Android app for measuring heart rate.  A latest app along the same lines, can covert your iPhone into a stethoscope.  The iPhone app developed by a UK professor, Peter Bently is called iStethoscope (iTunes link).  Can you believe that just after its release more than three million doctors have downloaded the iStethoscope application!

The patient can email their heart pattern to their doctor to enable them to receive professional assessment of their condition. More than 500 users a day are downloading the free version of the application which experts say has already saved lives.

To use the iSthethoscope app:

  • iPhone is pressed against the chest where its built-in microphone is able to pick up on the heart’s beat.
  • then shakes the iPhone to hear the last eight seconds of recording
  • see a phonocardiograph display and a spectrogram.

The diagrams can then be emailed to a specialist.



Major hurdle of smart phones as Medical device
Dr. Bentley said that the development of future cheap iPhone apps for doctors is limited by the regulations that prevent smartphones from becoming medical devices.  To a certain extent it may be justified as in the United States, FDA has been criticized for letting medical device products go without much scrutiny and is taking a hard look at 510k approval processes.

On the other hand, researchers like Dr...

Bentley might be discouraged as he said that he could create a mobile ultrasound scanner or an app to measure oxygen levels in the blood, but is being held back by the regulations.

Response of Regulatory body
A spokesman for the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which looks at how to regulate new technologies, said: This is such a complex area that we are currently looking at every application on a case-by-case basis.

‘We want to ensure that these new technologies are effectively regulated – thereby protecting health and avoiding unnecessary deterrents – while at the same time removing any unnecessary obstacles to manufacturers who wish to exploit new technologies for the benefit of patients.’

I hope that regulating agencies can come up with a ways to drive instead of inhibiting innovation in using smart phones as devices.  The up side is for countries like India and China, wherein these pocket devices can easily do basic diagnosis at much lower cost.



7 Responses

  1. ahmed says:

    why holding back ?

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