From Featuring Dr Chris Steele MBE

Free iPhone app monitors your heartbeat

Is this the end of the stethoscope?

The stethoscope, which defines the very image of a doctor, is threatened by a new tool - an application that turns the iPhone in a virtual stethoscope, allowing the doctor - or you - to listen to your heartbeat and see your hearth waveform.

The application, which is called - what else - iStethoscope, was developed by a computer scientists at University College London, in collaboration with cardiologists and has been used for research on heart disease.

The free app can be downloaded at istethoscope

The success of Apple's iPhone has spawned a large market for medical applications, and thousands can be downloaded for use on the device.

Speaking in an interview in the Guardian newspaper, the creator of the iStethoscope, Peter Bentley, said:

"Smartphones are incredibly powerful devices packed full of sensors, cameras, high-quality microphones with amazing displays.

"They are capable of saving lives, saving money and improving healthcare in a dramatic fashion – and we carry these massively powerful computers in our pockets."

The user places the microphone of the iPhone directly against the skin at the level of the heart. The microphone picks up the sound of your heartbeat, which is then enhanced by the software to make it clearly audible. The application also displays a visual representation of your heartbeat.

Dr Peter Bentley, who developed the App, said that it takes time to learn how to listen to your heart using the application - and the microphone must be placed very accurately.

This article was published on Wed 1 September 2010