May 18, 2020

An iPhone, ultrasound wand and an augmented reality app could allow an at-home coronavirus test which allows a remote doctor to diagnose a COVID-19 infection. The FDA has so far licensed it to monitor the condition of existing COVID-19 patients.

The beauty of the setup is that no medical training is required by the person using the wand – indeed, it can even be done by the patient themselves …

Engadget reports.

Historically, ultrasound machines have been unwieldy imaging devices that peered into the human body by beaming high-frequency sound waves into it. They also required trained medical professionals to operate them. With the fully handheld Butterfly iQ and this new, iOS-only teleguidance feature, neither of those things are strictly true anymore. And with COVID-19 reshaping the front lines of medicine, the company found itself fast-tracking its plans to help medical professionals more easily diagnose patients, even from thousands of miles away.

The beauty of Butterfly’s approach to telemedicine is that you don’t have to know a thing about ultrasound systems to use it. If a patient is given one to use, they can connect the iQ to their iPhones and have a professional guide them through the process, complete with on-screen cues to help them orient the probe correctly. (Thanks to a little augmented reality help, the doctor(s) on the other end of the call can see exactly which way the patient is holding the probe.) The same goes for nurses or orderlies in hospitals who don’t necessarily have the training to use ultrasound equipment — they can don their full PPE, meet with a patient, and help a physically remote physician or team of physicians find exactly what they’re looking for […]

As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to flourish, the telltale signs doctors look for are areas of irregular opacity and thickness around the pleura, or the membranes that surround the lungs. If spotted, a doctor virtually instructing someone with a Butterfly wand can remotely control the probe’s gain and depth to zero in on potential trouble spots, and record images and short video clips for further inspection. And just like that, a process that typically required multiple people in a room with a patient now requires just one, or even zero if the patient is wielding the wand themselves at home.

The bad news is that you’re not going to be buying one of these yourself to conduct your own at-home coronavirus scan: the wands cost a cool $2,000.

But they can be a big help for more remote patients, where a wand can be dispatched more easily than a doctor, and the company hopes that future development will eventually bring them closer to the affordable price bracket of other home medical kit like blood pressure monitors and pulse-oximeters.

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