The kit changes with sophisticated tools - and the job of the doctor may be shifting. (via the BBC)
Ironically, while stethoscopes helped doctors become physically intimate with patients, they represented an intellectual distancing. Laennec's descriptions of the sounds that can be heard through his instrument - he described one of the symptoms of fibrosis, for example, as "the nasal intonations of the juggler speaking in the character of Punch" - describe a sound world filled with meaning closed off to the layman.
Unlike the stethoscope, the portable ultrasound monitor has a screen that can be turned round to show patients their own bodies in a way that they can understand, bringing them into the conversation.
"I think traditional devices and traditional interaction with doctors have been kind of mysterious for most patients - they don't really understand what the doctor's listening to or screening," says Shiv Gaglani, a medical student and an editor of the online magazine MedGadget.