Disruptive technology in your doctor’s office – ultrasound for iPhone

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Some gadgets are perfect for everyone – the USB battery pack can be used by just about everyone. Other gadgets are only used by those in certain industries but appreciated by many more. The Butterfly iQ is an ultrasound system that connects to the iPhone; it’s useful to doctors but cool tech to everyone else.

The Butterfly iQ for iPhone is the world’s first Ultrasound-on-a-Chip based imaging system. This device takes the place of larger cart based systems that have multiple transducers and can cost 100 times as much. Its small size and low cost means that the device can be more available to more doctors. Because the system is battery powered, it can also be readily used in the field. Butterfly achieved this reduction in cost and size in a way similar to the transition from transistor based computing to integrated circuit and system-on-a-chip based computing. They replaced thousands of piezoelectric transducers with tens of thousands of MEMS sensors on a chip. Because of this change in technology the manufacturing of these systems, which is traditionally labor and material cost intensive, can be done with cheaper materials in a way similar to computer manufacturing. The transition of the ultrasonic probe to a chip based device has the ability to make this technology as available as a digital video camera is today, compared to the tube based recorders of the past.

Butterfly Network’s Chief Medical Officer has said, “Offering a unique blend of affordability, diagnostic versatility, and assistive intelligence, Butterfly has the potential to impact human health more profoundly than any diagnostic device since the stethoscope, invented over 200 years ago. At less than $2,000, healthcare providers can purchase an easy-to-use, powerful, whole-body medical imaging system that fits in their pocket…By removing the barrier of price, I expect Butterfly to ultimately replace the stethoscope in the daily practice of medicine. We can now provide a diagnostic system to address the millions of children that die of pneumonia each year and the hundreds of thousands of women that die in childbirth, and these are just two examples of the impact this technology will have.”

Not content with ushering a hardware revolution, Butterfly Network has developed deep learning-based artificial intelligence applications that are tightly coupled to the hardware and assist clinicians with both image acquisition and interpretation. “Deep learning and ultrasound imaging are a perfect combination,” said President Gioel Molinari. “As physicians use our devices in the field, they help improve the neural network models. The more physicians use Butterfly devices, the better they will get. Improvements to acquiring and interpreting images will ultimately enable less skilled users to reliably extract life-saving insight from ultrasound.” Butterfly plans to release assistance and interpretation functionality in 2018 as a software add-on to the Butterfly iQ system. The system is also paired with a HIPAA-compliant cloud which enables image storage and collaboration among clinicians as well as connectivity with traditional hospital medical record systems. The combination of AI assistance and cloud based communication means that one day people with limited medical training may be able to use this device as a diagnostic tool in the field, and provide the information to medical centers in preparation for treatment.

Hopefully, one day, Doctors Without Borders will carry this around instead of a stethoscope and bring this level of medical diagnostic to patients worldwide.

Learn more at www.butterflynetwork.com

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