The Dirty Stethoscope Dilemma: Why Doctors Need To Take Action to Prevent Deadly Healthcare-Acquired Infection Outbreaks
Stethoscopes have long been associated with the transmission of healthcare-related bacterial infections. Writing in the esteemed medical journal The Lancet in the summer of 1972, researchers A. Gerken, S. Cavanagh and H. I. Winner from Charing Cross Hospital Medical School in London, United Kingdom, detailed the findings of their culture of 100 stethoscopes, all of which had been collected from various departments of the teaching hospital in which they worked. In a report entitled “Infection Hazards From Stethoscopes in Hospital”, the researchers revealed that they had found bacteria belonging to the staphylococcus genus on 21 of the 100 stethoscopes. Nine of these bacteria were resistant to multiple antibiotics, with one resistant to three of the most widely prescribed antibiotics: penicillin, tetracycline and methicillin. Yet the authors concluded that the solution was a simple one: to eliminate the infection risk, doctors simply needed to wipe their stethoscopes with a disinfectant swab after use on each patient.
Despite this, a report in the American Journal of Infection Control, published more than four decades after Gerken et al had revealed their findings, made clear that doctors had not heeded the warnings. In a brief report, entitled “Stethoscopes as potential intra-hospital carriers of pathogenic microorganisms”, researchers A. Campos-Murgua, X. Len-Lara, J. M. Muoz, A. E. Macas and J. A. lvarez reiterated the findings of Gerken et al, concluding that doctors must routinely disinfect their stethoscopes before and after each patient contact. While the dangers of dirty stethoscopes – and the measures that effectively eliminate these problems could not be any clearer, it seems that doctors are failing to nip the problem in the bud.
Evidently, many doctors refuse to acknowledge dirty stethoscopes as valid health and safety issues, and/or lack confidence in the efficacy of removing germs with a disinfectant cloth after each patient contact. There is, however, a viable alternative to the disinfectant cloth. Cleanstethoscope is a device that enables doctors, nurses or any healthcare practitioner to both protect and clean their stethoscope with the greatest of ease, granting them the chance to spend more time with the patients who need them the most. By sliding the bell of their stethoscope into the Cleanstethoscope chamber immediately following their individual consultations, doctors can examine multiple patients without putting themselves, or their patients, at risk of healthcare-acquired infections.