A team at the Indian Institute of Technology of Bombay (IIT-B) has developed a “digital stethoscope” that can listen to heart beats from a distance and record them, minimising the risk of healthcare professionals contracting the novel coronavirus from patients.

The data or the auscultated sound from a patient’s chest is wirelessly sent to the doctor using Bluetooth, doing away with the need to go near to take readings, according to members of the team.

The IIT-B team has received a patent for the device that records the auscultated sound and stores it as part of a patient’s health record. This can be shared with other doctors for analysis as well as follow ups.

Operating a start-up called “AyuDevice” from the IIT’s technology business incubator, the team has sent 1,000 stethoscopes to different hospitals and healthcare centres across the country. The product has been developed with clinical inputs from doctors at Reliance Hospital and PD Hinduja Hospital.

“Patients diagnosed with coronavirus often experience shortness of breath, leading to acute respiratory distress syndrome. Doctors use (traditional) stethoscope to listen to chest sounds such as wheezing and crackles that appear with the progress of the disease,” one of the developers Adarhsa K said.

This however, poses a risk to doctors, as evident from the rising infections reported among healthcare professionals handling COVID-19 patients, he said.

Giving details about the digital stethoscope, Adarsha said it “consists of a tube connected to two earpieces. The tube transmits sounds from the body while eliminating background noise that might interfere with diagnosis”.

“The second advantage is that the stethoscope is able to amplify and filter several sounds and translate them into an electronic signal, which can be further amplified for optimal listening,” he said.

“The signal can then be displayed as a phonocardiogram on a smartphone or laptop. In contrast, a regular stethoscope is limited when it comes to amplifying sounds and there is no way of recording those sounds and sharing from one place to another. Even visualisation is not possible, which means one cannot see the graph and identify abnormalities,” he added.

The death toll due to the novel coronavirus rose to 239 and the number of cases to 7,447 in the country on Saturday, according to the Union Health Ministry.

While the number of active COVID-19 cases is 6,565, as many as 642 people were cured and discharged and one had migrated, it said.

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