Volume 5, Issue 6 (June 2008)
A Human Factors Evaluation of Stethoscopes
Background: The need to hear sounds of the human body is important in health care. The stethoscope was designed to improve practitioner’s method of “immediate auscultation.” The purpose of this study was to evaluate and compare 16 human factor characteristics of two electrically amplified and one standard acoustic stethoscope. Methods: Each subject examined the three stethoscopes by listening to heart sounds of the investigator. After examination, each of the 77 subjects evaluated the stethoscopes by completing a questionnaire according to the following categories: sound, comfort, ease of use, and instruction manuals. Subjects ranged in age from 18 to 67 years, with 51 % of the subjects having prior experience with stethoscopes. Results: Both electronically amplified stethoscopes were found to have a significant difference in regard to preference compared with the non-electronically amplified standard stethoscope on all characteristics. No significant differences were found between the two electronically amplified stethoscopes, with the exception of turning the stethoscopes on and off. The average mean ratings of the two electronically amplified stethoscopes were not significantly different. Conclusion: It is clear that electronic amplification was preferred over acoustically amplified sound in this study. As the complexity increases with electronic amplification, the importance of ease-of-use design becomes more important.