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Building an ultrasound device for a changing health care system

by Loren Bonner, DOTmed News Online Editor | April 28, 2014

So we started in global health but we found there was a big need in the U.S., and the rollout of the Affordable Care Act has started to help us too: if any entity is not part of an ACO and they have some risk sharing, they have incentive now to not do unnecessary referrals and do as many rule-outs and as many in-house patient procedures as they can.

We were cleared by the FDA for a fairly broad range of indications. From a market perspective, we focus on quick-look triage rule-out procedures.

DMN: Can you describe what the device looks like?
SC: It connects to a smart phone or a tablet and there is a different probe with different frequencies and clinical uses, which connects to a smart phone or tablet. Then we run our specialized software that gives you a portable handheld and connected ultrasound system that you can carry with you.

DMN: Although ultrasound is normally in real-time, does it integrate with PACS or an electronic medical record?
SC: Yes. We leverage network connectivity to also give you access to a cloud-based PACS we run. We haven't launched that yet, we are just in beta. But the whole idea is that you get the device and options to connect to cloud storage, and then once you have that, we can connect you to a 24/7 radiology network if you need it. If you have your own PACS, our system generates images in DICOM so you can export directly to hospital PACS. Smaller practices normally don't have image management systems, it's expensive, and we can also help them with that.

DMN: What are some improvements you plan to make to the device going forward?
SC: There are a few vectors. The real innovation here is using commodity electronics to build medical devices. With say GE or Siemens, the approach in the last 20 years has been to do everything custom-the hardware and probes. The reason that approach came about is because 20 years ago that was the only way you could have ultrasound imaging that was good. Then in 2008-2009, QUALCOMM came out with chips that packed one GHz computing in the phone, and that gives real-time image processing. QUALCOMM and other companies like it just keep making this stuff cheaper and faster. If I could use consumer electronics like smart phones as building blocks for imaging systems, I get a free ride because costs keep going down and quality keeps going up and I can pass that onto the consumer. That's pretty innovative.

The second piece: With the cloud, we can now roll out software and give you additional functionality and in a different manner than traditional devices because of our connectivity. Storage is first but you can foresee analytics too.

And the third vector: As different diagnostic sensors evolve, we can integrate those on our platform — can we create powerful diagnostic platforms that every health care provider can carry. Eventually, we can integrate into one.

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