Low Cost Mobile Medicine

Todd Vandenbark

Oxford University along with a group of South African researchers have developed a kit to turn a low-cost mobile phone into a stethoscope that allows patients “to record and analyse their own heart sounds using a mobile phone microphone. Patients then send the recordings to medics who can remotely monitor their condition” (from the University of Oxford’s blog). This technology could be used to save thousands of lives in poor countries around the world.

Phonoscope prototype

After developing a prototype, the team conducted a clinical trial at a hospital in South Africa using two different mobile phones: a Nokia 3110 Classic and an iPhone 3G, and compared them against the £400 3M Littmann Electronic Stethoscope.

They collected phonocardiograms from 150 volunteers with a range of cardiac conditions using the Littmann, the iPhone, and the Nokia 3100 Classic. The trial showed that the Nokia actually out-performed the Littmann in estimating heart rate, although it had to discard more low signal quality recordings. (from the Oxford blog)

The team is now working on an Android application to record and process the heart sound recordings.

Have any of our readers worked in poor countries where medical services is minimal or lacking completely? Would such a device be helpful based on your experience? Tell us about it!