by John R. Fischer
, Senior Reporter | September 28, 2018
Orders for Butterfly iQ, the first ultrasound-on-a-chip-based imaging system that can be plugged into the iPhone, have now commenced, with tens of thousands reserved in advance currently being shipped out to providers worldwide.
Announced this week, the news follows more than a year of announcements surrounding development of the less than $2000 solution by parent company, Butterfly Network Inc., and comes alongside its recent round of investments, which saw the accumulation of $250 million, the majority of which will go toward building the company team and furthering development and shipping of Butterfly iQ devices and its software offerings.
“Traditional systems cost upward of $50,000 and require at least three transducers to scan the entire body,” Gioel Molinari, president of Butterfly Network, told HCB News. “Butterfly realized the issue around accessibility of ultrasound and worked to build a product that addresses both of these problems through a silicon chip on a smartphone-connected device and artificial intelligence. This innovative technology has inspired fellow investors to join in Butterfly's mission and goal to democratize healthcare.”
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The chip-based design reduces the price of production and is not bound by the reliance of conventional ultrasound systems on inherently fragile piezoelectric crystal sensors, each of which cost between thousands and tens of thousands to manufacture. The creation of such components contributes to the high cost of full capability machines, which range between $20,000 and $100,000, as well as handheld devices at around $8,000.
Instead, the technology combines the capabilities of the probes into a single ultra-wideband, 2D matrix arrangement which consists of thousands of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS). Directly overlaying these sensors is an integrated circuit that encompasses the electronics of a high-performing ultrasound system, with the combination of acoustic bandwidth and the processing power of the MEMS and electronic fusion enabling greater diagnostic versatility, speeds, modes and resolutions.
The system is paired with a HIPAA-compliant cloud that provides storage and collaboration among clinicians and connects it with traditional hospital medical record systems. It also offers healthcare administrators information on the use and return-on-investment of ultrasound in workplaces.
In reducing cost, the aim behind the system is to provide greater access to ultrasound in developing nations, where currently 4.7 billion individuals worldwide are unable to obtain medical imaging, opening up access to a superior and safer alternative to X-ray for the diagnosis of critical global health issues. In addition, the reduction in price along with greater accessibility is poised to assist providers across the globe in their transition toward value-based care models, according to Molinari.
“By making medical imaging as accessible as stethoscopes, Butterfly iQ will fundamentally change how clinicians practice medicine,” he said.
The latest round included lead investor Fidelity, alongside Fosun Pharma, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Jamie Dinan, and existing investors.
The system is FDA cleared
and offers a range of features, including Butterfly Tele-Guidance technology, which was unveiled at the 2018 AIUM Annual Convention.