Background Electronic stethoscopes are becoming more common in clinical practice. They may improve the accuracy and efficiency of pulmonary auscultation, but the data to support their benefit are limited.
Objective To determine how auscultation with an electronic stethoscope may affect clinical decision making.
Methods An online module consisting of six fictional ambulatory cases was developed. Each case included a brief history and lung sounds recorded with an analogue and electronic stethoscope. Internal medicine resident participants were randomly selected to hear either the analogue or electronic lung sounds. Numbers of correct answers, time spent on each case and numbers of times the recordings were played were compared between the groups who heard each mode of auscultation, with a p value of less than 0.05 indicating statistical significance.
Results 61 internal medicine residents completed at least one case, and 41 residents completed all six cases. There were no significant differences in overall scores between participants who heard analogue and electronic lung sounds (3.14±0.10 out of 6 correct for analogue, 3.20±0.10 out of 6 for electronic, p=0.74). There were no significant differences in performance for any of the six cases (p=0.78), time spent on the cases (p=0.67) or numbers of times the recordings were played (p=0.85).
Conclusion When lung sounds were amplified with an electronic stethoscope, we did not detect an effect on performance, time spent on the cases or numbers of times participants listened to the recordings.
- electronic stethoscope
- lung sounds
- lung auscultation
- digital auscultation
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Contributors ERG, JMA, DT: participated in the design of this study and writing of the manuscript. ERG: conducted data collection and analysis.
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests None declared.
Patient consent Not required.
Ethics approval This study was approved by the institutional review board (IRB) for Lifespan/Rhode Island Hospital.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
Data sharing statement Data and material are available upon request.
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