I watched a news segment this week about the rising popularity of telemedicine. The segment profiled a doctor and showed him conducting a telemedicine visit in his home. To my surprise he was wearing a stethoscope around his neck. It got me thinking about telemedicine and stethoscopes.
I asked my wife, ‘what’s he plannin’ do with that stethoscope, I wonder?’
‘What do you mean?‘ she said. ‘That’s what doctors do. They wear their stethoscopes on their necks.’
It seems that the stethoscope-as-hood-ornament is second nature to our culture. But when our cred rides desperately on a rubber tube around the neck, we’ve got work to do.
When we prop to ‘look like a doctor’ we win the short game of playing to an identifiable image. This has advantages to winning over those who might not believe that we’re really are a health professional. For some doctors it’s a sad necessity of credibility – a sign that we actually are who we say we are. My stethoscope is kept in a drawer in our clinic – I resurrect it when I have specific questions that can only be answered with auscultation. And for the record, parents don’t always know I’m the doctor.
But when our identity becomes tied to the stethoscope we lose the opportunity to make the statement that doctors look all kinds of different ways. Perhaps most importantly, lots of great doctors don’t even use stethoscopes. And no doctor uses a traditional stethoscope during a remote visit with a patient.
When patients catch on to the fact that the iconic tube has no role in telemedicine we’re going to need to find another screen-ready ornament to indicate who we are.
Now might be a good time to figure that out.
If you like The Truth About Telemedicine and Stethoscopes you might like the 33 charts Stethoscope Archives. It’s everything written here about the stethoscope and its rapidly changing role. Every 33 charts post has tags at the bottom to direct you to our archives on that subject area. Telemedicine might be worth a peek as well. Happy reading.
Image via the National Library of Medicine.