Will Ultrasound Replace Stethoscopes?
A pair of prominent New York City cardiologists are now touting the use of ultrasound technology for bedside patient evaluation. They claim it will soon replace the stethoscope, a staple of medicine since its invention in 1816. Ultrasound, which came about in the 1950s, allows a practitioner to "see" the problem rather than depending on hearing it. The cardiologists say that it is far superior to the stethoscope, and that its use should be expanded in every hospital in the country.
The problem with ultrasound technology is that it is expensive. Even in a couple of years, when its use is expected to be more mainstream, the cost of a single unit is projected to be around $1000-$2000. Compare that with the stethoscope you use now. Stethoscopes cost anywhere from $20 to whatever you want to spend, depending on the bells and whistles that come with it. This would make the ultrasound machine cost prohibitive for many facilities, and very cost prohibitive for medical, nursing, respiratory and other students in disciplines that routinely rely on the stethoscope. Additionally, it takes more training to use the ultrasound devices than it does a stethoscope. This could slow down a medical student's progress in school, and would open up more opportunities for misdiagnoses at the bedside.
In my opinion, I am all for technological advancement. However, I think saying that the stethoscope is on its way out any time soon is a little premature. I think that many older therapists will have a hard time leaving their "ears" in the car or locker and learning to use the new technology. I think that some patients may not welcome the change, either. While I do believe that ultrasound technology has its place in medicine, I am not retiring my tried and true money maker just yet, and would suggest you do not, either.
That's just my opinion,
Jim Thacker, MBA, MHA, CRT, AE-C