Cancer diagnosis is often a task that can only be completed by medical professionals who have access to bulky and expensive equipment, but that may begin to change. The company Butterfly Network has been working on a portable ultrasound device that connects to an iPhone that is far more affordable than any other ultrasound device while still being able to function exceptionally well. In fact, the chief medical officer of Butterfly Network discovered his early-stage cancer using the company’s ultrasound device, which helped save his life. Portable ultrasound devices are as step towards a future where everyday people have access to tools that can give deep information on their own body in order to catch chronic or serious illnesses early.
Dr. Imran Haque, an internist and general practitioner based out of North Carolina, is very excited about the benefits a portable ultrasound has to offer. Specifically, he looks forward to a future where patients are more informed about symptoms and their own body, which will lead to cheaper healthcare and more effective medicine. Dr. Imran Haque will be using his experience of over 15 years to help explain why a better-informed patient makes such a large, beneficial difference for physicians.
The First Affordable Portable Ultrasound Device
Most ultrasound devices today are prohibitively expensive and bulky. The most common system in hospitals today resembles a bulky cart with a small screen with several wands for different levels of imagine, and it costs over $100,000. The alternative is a more portable ultrasound device that uses the same technology, but is still cumbersome and expensive, with a price tag of around $20,000. Butterfly Network’s portable ultrasound is radically different because it utilizes alternative technology to accomplish the same function. The end result is a machine that is small enough to hold in one hand and is much more affordable – their product sells for only $2,000, the cheapest in its category by far. Dr. Imran Haque is very excited about Butterfly Network’s portable ultrasound because it’s the first device of its kind that is accessible for everyday people. In addition, there is future opportunity for the device to become even cheaper as new generations make improvements on the hardware, software, and manufacturing capabilities. This paints a picture for a future where ultrasound devices are no longer confined just in doctor’s offices, but are ubiquitous in the homes of everyday people.
Providing a powerful and accurate diagnosis system at a low price will make healthcare cheaper and more effective. One of the largest contributors to expensive healthcare is the high cost of treating late-stage chronic diseases, and catching these illnesses in early stages will result in more effective and less expensive treatment options. Dr. Imran Haque sees tremendous potential in the new ultrasound device, since it functions as both an affordable diagnostic system and a companion device to complex surgeries, meaning it can help save millions of lives in scenarios such as diagnosing pneumonia in children, assisting women in childbirth, or identifying early-stage cancer. By providing an affordable means for people to monitor their own health and identify early-stage illnesses, healthcare will become cheaper and more effective, and this becomes ever more evident as time goes on. The introduction of the internet has opened an unprecedented amount of information to people and home remedies are slowly being phased out with more tried-and-true options. However, at-home diagnosis is not perfect today and information available online can sometimes be conflicting or incorrect. The ultrasound device is an example of a tool that will give concrete and irrefutable information for consumers, which can help eliminate some of the uncertainty with at-home diagnosis. More importantly, it allows patients to closely monitor aspects of their own health they never could before.
Medical Effectiveness at a Global Scale
Dr. Imran Haque points out that the portable ultrasound device created by Butterfly Network is one of the most compact versions to exist today – and that could have implications beyond cost accessibility. One of the big barriers in practicing medicine globally is that some regions cannot support bulky medical equipment, whether it’s due to poor infrastructure or an active disaster zone. By shrinking down ultrasound equipment from the size of a cart to something that can be held in one hand, it enables more ubiquitous use of ultrasounds in the field. This will directly translate into more lives saved on the global level, as performing certain procedures or diagnosis will have a significantly higher success rate with an ultrasound device available. This can also have huge implications for medical scenarios in combat zones or disaster relief areas – being able to provide medical professionals with more tools will lead to better treatment.
A New Step Towards Affordable At-Home Diagnosis Devices
The introduction of the portable ultrasound device is a step towards a future where people have more transparency on their own body. Dr. Imran Haque firmly believes that a better-informed patient will directly translate into more effective and efficient medicine, and giving patients more tools to monitor their own health helps fulfill that goal. Today, many of the resources available for patients to diagnose and treat symptoms and illnesses at home is unreliable at best – online sources often provide misleading or different diagnosis results, or completely incorrect information in the worst case. The benefit of the ultrasound system is that it will provide easy access concrete and irrefutable information. This data is used by people to perform preliminary analysis on whatever they find, which allows them to approach a physician with pointed and targeted questions. Most importantly, it will lead to cheaper healthcare costs – instead of costly and potentially ineffective treatments for a late stage illness, catching a problem early in the life cycle will allow for cheaper, more effective treatments.