A company called Butterfly Network first rolled out its handheld ultrasound scanner two years ago. Today, the technology comes in handy for doctors as they treat patients during the coronavirus pandemic.
When they rolled out the device, called Butterfly iQ, it was with hopes of helping Africa and Latin America to access much-needed tools, since often there was no access to traditional ultrasound machines. “Our mission is to democratise healthcare by making medical imaging accessible to everyone around the world,” says founder Jonathan M. Rothberg on their website.
“We support organisations across the world who are using the Butterfly iQ in low resource settings to create sustainable healthcare. Access to imaging used to be a luxury. We are changing that. One day at a time, one iQ at a time,” he said.
“Today, 4.7 billion people around the world lack access to medical imaging. We put ultrasound on a chip and created the world’s first whole-body imager for less than $2,000. A fusion of semiconductors, artificial intelligence, and cloud technology has made it possible to create an ultrasound device that ushers in a new era of healthcare,” explains Butterfly Network.
Coronavirus has posed a new issue for doctors to face. As they transport COVID-19 patients to exam rooms, they risk infecting other patients and staff members. Now, the handheld ultrasound assists, as lung scans (which are often required for COVID-19 patients) can take place in whatever room they reside in.
— Butterfly Network (@ButterflyNetInc) May 15, 2020
The Butterfly iQ comes with a handheld probe, similar to the one connected to a normal ultrasound machine. However, rather than being attached to a machine, it is connected to a cable that connects to a smartphone or tablet through its charging port. Doctors can then view the images on the screen through Butterfly’s app.
“The fact that I can bring a handheld ultrasound system that plugs into a phone into a room, do the exam I need, get the information I need, walk out and disinfect a phone and a probe — compared to wheeling in a cart with three different probes on it, doing that same exam, getting that same information … it’s really night and day,” said Mike Stone, a Portland-based emergency physician and Butterfly Network’s director of education to CNN.
Doctors who have used the device say that the image quality is not the best, but it is good enough and gives them almost all the information they need.
The #ButterflyiQ activates its sensors in automated sequence to calculate a bladder volume, with visual reconstruction.
This supports decision making for catheterization and bladder training.
— Butterfly Network (@ButterflyNetInc) July 2, 2020
Point-of-care ultrasound can accelerate earlier diagnosis to reassure patients with confidence.
— Butterfly Network (@ButterflyNetInc) June 1, 2020
Image: Butterfly Network / Twitter