The stethoscope — medical icon, lifesaver and a doctor's best friend — is disappearing from hospitals across the world as physicians increasingly use their smartphones to monitor patients' heartbeats.
More than 3 million doctors have downloaded a 0.59GBP (R42) application — invented by Peter Bentley, a researcher from University College London — which turns an Apple iPhone into a stethoscope.
Last week, Bentley introduced a free version of the app, which is being downloaded by more than 500 users a day. Experts say the software, a major advance in medical technology, has saved lives and enabled doctors in remote areas to access specialist expertise.
"Everybody is very excited about the potential of the adoption of mobile phone technology into the medical workplace, and rightly so," said Bentley, who developed the app "as a fun toy".
"Smartphones are incredibly powerful devices packed full of sensors, cameras, high-quality microphones with amazing displays," he said. Bentley's iStethoscope application is not the only mobile phone programme lightening doctors' bags and transforming their practices: there are nearly 6,000 applications related to health in the Apple App Store.