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iPod heartbeats help doctors save lives

June 16, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
If you had to place your life in the hands of a doctor or nurse, would you choose a young practitioner schooled in new technology, or a seasoned veteran who has seen it all? With a little help from technology, patients can get the best of both worlds.

Lots of us listen to music while working, or working out. But for some doctors, a playlist may have nothing to do with rock and everything to do with rhythm. Doctors are now listening to heartbeats on their iPods.

"Listening to the heart is still one of the basic skills of the art of medicine when we see patients," said Alfred Bove, MD, Ph.D.,Temple University School of Medicine.

On a Web site called Cardiosource, heart sounds for listening practice have been among the top downloads every month. And it seems interns and residents aren't the only ones downloading the data.

"We're finding many of the adult, 'older cardiologists' moving toward MP3 players as well," said Dr. Bove.

On average, most doctors can correctly identify heart sounds 40 percent of the time. In a recent study, doctors who listened to five heart sounds at least 400 times on their iPods were 80 percent accurate.

Veteran nurse Margie Fortino is trying out another way to improve care. The E-lert system is like an electronic Intensive Care Unit in that personnel can monitor patients 24-7 with software. They also control high-resolution cameras mounted in each room. The cameras are so sharp, Fortino can zoom in close enough to double check the fine print on medical devices.

"You can anticipate the needs of a patient, and you can pick up subtle changes a little earlier," said Fortino.

It seems technology could save lives and keep medical professionals on the job without missing a beat.

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