Stethoscope Diaphragm Cleaner

European patent number: 11738272.1

The problem

The stethoscope is one of the most recognisable pieces of medical equipment in the world, seen hanging around the neck of nearly all physicians and GPs. In common with other pieces of medical equipment the diaphragm of the stethoscope (that part usually placed against the patient's skin) will come into contact with multiple patients per day, and is similarly proven to be commonly contaminated with harmful organisms. Therefore, it is widely recognised as a vector in the spread of infection between patients.

As with other equipment, it is in part the inconvenience of manual cleaning in a time-pressured environment that forms a barrier to complying with existing requirements to clean the diaphragm between each patient. Additionally, research also suggests that it simply does not occur to a proportion of medical practitioners that their stethoscope could be spreading infections.

The solution

The Mantra Medical Stethoscope Diaphragm Cleaner provides a very quick and easy method of stethoscope diaphragm cleaning coupled with a visual reminder that it is important to do so.

It is designed to adhere to wall surfaces at cleaning stations within the clinical environment. In terms of design and function, this device will be cost- effectively developed as an off-shoot of the pulse oximeter device, since it will use the same cleaning system in a different morphological form.

Auditing

The stethoscope cleaning device will be capable of utilising the same proposed auditing system as the blood pressure cuff and pulse oximeter cleaning devices, and could therefore have a role in monitoring an individual doctor's infection control performance, which is already a scrutinised professional standard.

Our goal is for the three infection control devices to form a suite of complementary products together addressing some of the most important neglected causes of HCAI spread.

Competition

Manual cleaning suffers from the same problems as with the other devices – it is too cumbersome and time consuming to be consistently done and cannot be relied upon as a method. Disposable stethoscopes do exist but the financial cost is significant and ongoing and as with all disposable solutions they have a very undesirable environmental impact.

Disposable diaphragm covers designed to fit over the stethoscope diaphragm exist but are unpopular because they are cumbersome to fit, and some feel they interfere with the acoustic properties of stethoscope diaphragms. Highly trained medical staff are unlikely to find sympathy with a cleaning solution that negates the essential purpose of their tools.

Market

It can be clearly seen that the potential market size is very substantial. There are more than 200,000 registered doctors in the UK, and the majority of these will use a stethoscope at some point during the working day. With one device per ward, one in A&E and several in intensive care units, as well as outpatients and theatres, it is easy to imagine even with limited penetration a UK market of in excess of 10,000 devices.

Summary

This device offers a rapid, inexpensive method of cleaning stethoscope diaphragms while avoiding the drawbacks of other methods. Crucially, it also offers a visual reminder to undertake cleaning coupled with an auditing function to monitor compliance. It will also be very cost-effective to develop since it will stem directly from development of the pulse oximeter device.