The FDA has issued emergency guidance due to COVD-19 and that means technology can expand the reach of telemedicine. Now, a company named Butterfly IQ is making it possible for doctors to perform an ultrasound on a patient who’s at home.

“One of the applications that most excites us is the ability now to bring ultrasound in a controlled way to the home,” says Matthew de Jonge, VP of product at Butterfly Network. Butterfly IQ makes a popular portable ultrasound probe that plugs into a mobile device like an iPhone or iPad. It allows doctors to perform medical imaging anywhere, instantly!

“We sometimes think of it as the first major update to the stethoscope, which was invented 200 years ago and hasn’t changed much,” says Jonge. Now, the company is expanding the reach of their product thanks to new policies from the FDA in response to the COVID19 crisis that expand telemedicine beyond basic video chat.

Butterfly is launching a new teleguidance platform that lets a patient scan themselves, while a doctor guides the process from afar. “We wanted to avoid things like move left, my left, your left. It gets messy quickly and with ultrasound positioning the probe appropriately on the on the body is essential,” explains Jonge.

The system uses augmented reality. A patient follows virtual arrows superimposed over their body on screen, guiding the scanner to where doctors needs to look.

In a demo, I watched a live examination of the lungs, since COVID-19 attacks their tissue in a specific way, ultrasound tech has been instrumental in diagnosis. “I think we’re finding much like we’re finding that much of our work can be done remotely that much of medicine can be done over telemedicine as opposed to a discrete office visit,” says Dr. Mike Stone, an emergency medicine physician.

In the near future, a virtual checkup might be more than just a video chat. “When we have telemedicine that can enable the same quality of care that’s possible in a hospital, then I think that’s a real milestone for society and technology,” says Jonge.

Butterfly’s handheld scanner costs $2,000, about 50 times less than your typical cart-based ultrasound machine. Imagine, a nursing care facility might purchase one as a way for doctor’s to check in on a patients ongoing condition without having to transport them anywhere.

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