StethoFILM: Reducing the Spread
Umair Khan: Medicine, University of Leicester
Dr. Tahir Khan: Consultant Histopathologist
Ammar Khan: Mathematics, University of Leeds
Hospital acquired infections is a major problem in NHS which has required deep cleaning of the wards with excess expenditure. Whilst the doctors and the hospital staff take necessary care to clean their hands with alcohol gel in between patients, the most commonly used stethoscope of doctors escape attention. Having started my clinical rotations, being on the wards has allowed me to experience this first-hand. I personally have wiped my stethoscope with alcohol wipes a few times whilst I see consultant physicians not paying attention to the issue. There are alcohol wipes available on the wards but due to the practicalities of it, it is not surprising that doctors hardly clean their stethoscope, hence leaving patients exposed to potential source of bacteria.
These are some papers which provide evidence regarding the risk of cross-contamination between patients associated with stethoscopes as they harbour various bacterial growth. For example a study by Tang PH et al concluded that bacterial contamination rates are high in Emergency department on stethoscopes (1). Even more shocking was the study by Merlin MA et al (2) which found that about every 1 in 3 stethoscopes in Emergency department were contaminated by MRSA.
The paper by Schroeder A et al (3) highlights that rubbing alcohol pads are a good solution to decreasing bacterial colonisation on stethoscope but are infrequently used and “not always available”. Therefore a more simpler and easy solution is needed to the problem.
The Current Solution
Currently the solution available is to wipe the stethoscope with alcohol pads. Although this is effective in killing bacteria and infection control, the practicality of it makes it an unpopular choice. Having to open up alcohol pads every time after seeing a patient is cumbersome for a doctor, especially in the busy ward round. Also they may not be available sometimes.
StethoFILM aims to reduce the risk of cross-contamination between patients due to stethoscopes. It is a simple practical device which will be cheap, easy and fast to use for the doctor, especially in a busy ward round.
We propose to produce a device which is a simple thin plastic disposable film that will stick to the stethoscope diaphragm using a film dispenser (see design prototypes below), allowing it to be removed after completing the examination of the patient and discarded. The design of the plastic will ensure that the sounds heard on auscultation are not or minimally impeded. This will be a cheap, fast and easy method for a doctor to use rather than wasting time with alcohol pads.
The following diagram shows how the StethoFILM will look like and some of its features:
The following shows the dispenser design in which the StethoFILM will be packaged. The design aims to allow for quick application of StethoFILM from the dispenser, saving time.
(1) Tang PH et al. Examination of staphylococcal stethoscope contamination in the emergency department (pilot) study (EXSSCITED pilot study). CJEM, Can. j. emerg. med. care. 13(4):239-44, 2011 Jul
(2) Merlin MA et al. Prevalence of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus on the stethoscopes of emergency medical services providers. Prehosp Emerg Care, 13 (2009), pp. 71–74
(3) Schroeder A et al. What’s growing on your stethoscope? (And what you can do about it.). J Fam Pract, 58 (2009), pp. 404–409