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Building an ultrasound device for a changing health care system

by Loren Bonner, DOTmed News Online Editor | April 28, 2014
(Courtesy Mobisante)
The world's first smartphone-based ultrasound system from the company Mobisante gained U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval in 2011. Since that time adoption has been widespread, according to Mobisante's CEO and co-founder, Sailesh Chutani. In the U.S., interest has stemmed mainly from the primary care and urgent care setting. Globally, many public health workers take the device with them on trips.

DOTmed News spoke with Chutani about his product and taking a consumer-oriented approach to medical device innovation.

DMN: What was the genesis of Mobisante?

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SC: While I was at Microsoft, I started to look at mobile in the context of health care education and finance, mostly in the developing world. That's where I started in 2004. Around that time the phone was the platform of choice. I started to invest in that, and then one area that seemed promising was developing diagnostic sensors that could work with smartphones. The idea was that you can start to use them as a connected computer element and if you had diagnostic sensors then you could conceive of building a powerful platform that every health care provider in world could use — you could use it for imaging, vital signs, and be connected so that you can send images for interpretation. Eventually you start to increase the care you provide at the front lines in rural communities. And if they are in network, you get a global view of what's happening. That was the big vision.

After doing this for four years, I got excited to build that platform. And what's the most useful modality that would have value right away? Ultrasound. So we focused on that. My business partner from Washington University and I got together and started the company with funding from two community clinics in eastern Washington.

DMN: Why do you think they thought your product was worth investing in?
SC: They thought our device could help them provide care in remote communities where they usually send people elsewhere for imaging and it could reduce the amount of referrals and the unnecessary ER visits because you can start to do a lot of rule-outs. For example, with abdominal pain, you want to rule out certain kinds of internal bleeding and if you don't have access to ultrasound, you have to send someone to the ER if you have doubts. And many times the abdominal pain is just gas.

It sounded like there was enough need for this in U.S. as health care moves closer to the patients. You want to put more care into the hands of more mid-level professionals. If we can move care out of the hospital and in to the hands of mid-levels that allows you to reduce costs and increase access at the same time. Our device becomes like a catalyst to make that happen.

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