Top 5 Design Flaws in a Traditional Speculum That Your Patients Hate
In surveys conducted by the American College of Physicians, an alarming percentage of patients reported discomfort with routine pelvic exams. A median of 35% of women experienced pain and discomfort, while a median of 34% reported pain, embarrassment, and anxiety. Women who experienced these negative outcomes from pelvic exams were less likely to return to that provider — which presented a loss to both the practitioner and the patient.
Though it’s difficult to account for every patient’s negative experience, the widespread use of the traditional speculum definitely contributes to patient discomfort with pelvic exams. The vaginal speculum has been used in gynecological exams for more than a hundred years with relatively few advancements since then. Many practitioners still rely on traditional reusable metal specula that are cold to the touch, awkward to handle, and lack adequate lighting. Some plastic models of the speculum have unpleasant sensory associations — such as a loud clicking noise during the engagement.
With several major design flaws producing a less-than-positive experience for patients, it’s crucial for practices to explore the problems — and solutions — that confront the traditional speculum. Here are the top five design flaws that patients hate:
1. Metal Specula are Cold, Uncomfortable, and Reliant on Chemicals
When it comes to pelvic exams, most practitioners take pains to maintain a comfortable exam room temperature for patients. However, some don’t consider the discomfort associated with a cold, metallic speculum during the exam itself. Crafted from surgical steel, cool temperature is a hallmark of the traditional speculum.
As an added issue, metal specula need to be cleaned, disinfected, and inspected after each exam. In addition, disinfection practices of metal specula can expose patients to additional risks. For example, harsh chemicals like ethylene oxide (a known carcinogen) are often used to disinfect the metal. Because traditional specula are often not 100% metal, it’s possible for chemical absorption to occur in the nonmetal parts of the speculum, which can expose the patient to further risk.
Plastic disposable specula offer a superior experience for the client by eliminating cold and uncomfortable metal from the experience. In addition, switching to a disposable option saves time by eliminating the need for comprehensive disinfection. This helps practitioners focus on what really matters — the patient.
2. Speculum Lighting is Often Insufficient & Inefficient
One of the elements that can add time to a session is poor speculum lighting. Inadequate lighting can prolong the amount of time needed by the gynecologist to analyze the cervix and vaginal walls appropriately. Using a separate lighting device requires the practitioner to juggle multiple devices simultaneously, leading to a less-than-smooth clinical experience.
To reduce the amount of time needed for the exam, it’s important to use a speculum that provides superior lighting. First of all, a lighting system that’s integrated with the speculum itself eliminates the need for awkward handling of secondary devices during the exam. Secondly, LED light provides a bright white light with no colored undertones. Thus, gynecologist can detect important variations in tissue color.
3. “Clicking” Sounds in Disposable Specula are Unpleasant and Upsetting
From the perspective of a patient, a more positive pelvic exam relies heavily on the sensory elements of the exam. For example, it’s important to ensure that the temperature is comfortable, clean, well-lit, and the sounds are soothing. Unfortunately, many practitioners don’t consider the sound of the speculum itself when it comes to patient comfort.
Though many practitioners have already switched to disposable speculum models to offer their patients greater comfort, plastic specula often have a pivotal downfall: the ratcheting mechanism makes a loud, unpleasant “clicking” sound while in use.
Fortunately, technology has advanced methods of eliminating this unpleasant, impossible-to-ignore clicking that impacts a patient’s sensory experience. For example, the HER-SPEC Click Free Speculum offers patent-pending technology that eliminates the clicking sound and sensation so uncomfortable to patients.
4. Traditional Reusable Specula Carry Risk of Infection
According to clinical practice guidelines from the American College of Physicians, one of the drawbacks of pelvic exams involves introducing the risk of urinary tract infections to patients. And in fact, studies have shown a “significant statistical increase” in the rate of UTI infections in the seven weeks following a pelvic exam.
One of the ways practitioners can reduce the risk of UTI and infection in patients is to use sterile equipment. Traditional metal specula are used again and again on different patients. Although care is obviously taken to sterilize the instrument between uses, the repeated use of the speculum can, unfortunately, expose patients to a risk of infection.
Fortunately, plastic disposable specula can all but eliminate these risks when used in conjunction with other sterile measures. By offering a one-use option for this important medical device, practitioners can help eliminate the potential for infections.
5. Poor or Awkward Handling Detracts from Experience
When it comes to pelvic exams, patient comfort depends on the smoothness and efficiency of the clinician’s technique. Many patients understandably dread speculum insertion that feels awkward or jarring. In addition, it’s especially pivotal during a pelvic exam that adequate distance is maintained.
As a way to confront awkward handling, the HER-SPEC Click-Free Speculum incorporates a streamlined handle designed for a smoother experience. In a traditional speculum, the angle of the handle is 90 degrees, which often requires the patient to move awkwardly down the examination table to accommodate the practitioner’s hand. In contrast, the design of the HER-SPEC allows for a 105-degree angle on the handle. Thus, there is a more comfortable distance between the practitioner’s hand and the patient’s body.
By allowing smoother and more streamlined handling, this can help ease discomfort for the patient — and allow the practitioner to perform a thorough pelvic exam that offers countless benefits to patients.
Want to Improve Patient Experience? Use an Improved Speculum
There’s no substitute for kind, compassionate, and professional care when it comes to improving the pelvic exam experience for patients. That said, much-needed improvements in one of the most commonly-used gynecological devices can make a huge difference in practice.
At obp, our goal is to empower both patients and practitioners with top of the line medical supplies. If you’re interested in learning more, please feel free to contact us for more information about the patent-pending technology used in the HER-SPEC Click-Free Speculum.