GE Vscan: Step closer to truly mobile doctors

By: Brian Dolan | Feb 15, 2010        

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GE Healthcare Vscan ultra-mobile ultrasound device

After a few months of anticipation, GE Healthcare has announced the commercial availability of its handheld ultrasound device, Vscan, which has secured clearance from the FDA, the CE Mark from the European Union, and a Medical Device License from Health Canada. The company said it is now available in the U.S., Europe, India and Canada.

To be clear: GE’s Vscan is not a wirelessly connected device, but it is certainly a mobile one.

GE describes Vscan as a “pocket-sized visualization tool developed to provide physicians with imaging capabilities at the point-of-care” that is “roughly the size of a smart phone” and includes “ultra-smart ultrasound technology.” GE says the device will provide physicians with “an immediate, non-invasive method to help secure visual information about what is happening inside the body.”

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this year, the West Wireless Health Institute’s CMO Dr. Eric Topol performed what was called the first live demonstration of the GE Vscan onstage during Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs’ keynote. Topol explained that the Vscan can replace traditional ultrasounds, which cost upwards of $300,000. The portable Vscan could also replace the 200 year-old stethoscope, according to Topol. Qualcomm’s Jacobs went so far as to liken stethoscopes to an outdated “technology,” like “buggy whips.”

During the demo Topol, a cardiologist, praised the device’s image saying: “What a fantastic image — it’s comparable to any other ECHO machine. People are going to be doing their own ECHOs and sending them to their doctors in the not too distant future,” he predicted.

GE has not tipped its hand toward consumer availability of the Vscan or a similar device, but it’s not too hard to envision an ultra-mobile version of an ultrasound device in the consumer’s hand. After all, the 200 year-old stethoscope recently received its wireless connectivity thanks to Bluetooth and 3M. Here’s a bold prediction: It won’t take a few hundred years for ultra-mobile ultrasound devices to receive wireless connectivity.

It won’t take nearly that long before they’re in consumers hands either, but in the meantime, the Vscan is another medical device that fits back into the doctor’s black bag of tools. It’s one step closer to the return of the truly mobile doctor.

For more from GE Healthcare, read the Vscan launch press release

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  • Rob

    This is by far the most idiotic, simplistic and deceiving medical article (advert?) I have ever read in my 33 year career as a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer.

    “People are going to be doing their own ECHOs and sending them to their doctors in the not too distant future,” he predicted.”

    Unbelievable. Yup, even simians can scan a heart!

  • Dwayne

    Are you kidding me. This is the right up there with inutero-glamour shots. It took me years of scanning just to begin to understand what is going on in the body, let alone grasp the conceps of ultrasound physics. To make this available to the public is the worst idea I have heard of.

  • Norma

    Physicians returning to housecalls-a wonderful thought and how nice for the patient. Patient’s scanning themselves? Um, no, never. What a ridiculous notion. Dangerous and highly irresponsible to even publish such rubbish. Thouroughly trained sonographers have YEARS of OJT by competent mentors, or anywhere from 18 months to 4 years of advanced training ALONG with 100’s of clinical hours. I want to know which one of these people who stated these quotes and put out this piece would be perfectly comfortable with their family member (being a layperson) scanning themselves and sending it to a cardiologist for interpretation and subsequent treatment based on that self-scan. Shame on you all. This is going to bring alot of negative light to a perfectly fine diagnostic tool, all in the quest for the almighty dollar. Money changer in the temple.

  • Bill

    I would add similar to what several others above have noted, the notion of patients scanning themselves and having a physician diagnose based upon those images is moronic. I hope there are no physicians out there willing to do so. Fortunately this device being an Medical Ultrasound device, by FDA regulation is only to be bought and used by Physicians and/or medical facilites. Hopefully this regulation will prevail, and the FDA will be granted the Teeth to be able to enforce it. The more products like this that are introduced, being so small and (relatively) inexpensive the more you will see lay-person’s (like Tom Cruise) try to be their own Doctor. They will be sadly mistaken once they try and find they don’t know up from down. Now the next thing is we need licensing which requires competency bar exam (ARDMS, CCI) in order to practice. There are too many Psuedo-Sonographers out there already, we don’t need every Joe Schmoe doing medical ultrasound too, furthermore, this would just increase our already overburdened workload with unnecassary testing because “hey Doc I got this new toy and I saw this thingy and it really looks bad”. Half the Doctors that refer to us already don’t really know what they are looking for, we don’t need more nightmares.

  • Eric Topol

    I am surprised about the harsh comments above regarding patients acquiring their own ultrasound and transmitting the image to their physician. This is how screening for breast cancer will be done someday in the future, as ultrasound is an order of magnitude more sensitive than mammography. For patients with congestive heart failure who develop symptoms, this would be invaluable to sort out the actual cause of decompensation. The comments above do not give adequate credit to consumers who can be quickly taught how to properly place an ultrasound probe on their body and acquire a suitable image. This has nothing to do with interpretation of the image. At some point, these naysayers will figure it out in the future of consumer driven health care. The same response was mounted many years ago when home external defibrillators were being developed. Now there are widely used in the right patients and circumstances.

  • Joyce Moxley Thomas, MHA, CPM, LM

    Where do I order the VScan? Midwives all over the world will want one of these — to take US pictures at a mother’s home!

  • Eugenio Korolev

    Ken Olson (President of now non-existent DEC) said in 1977: “There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home.” Keep that quote in mind when bashing proliferation of technology… 40 years ago you needed specialized education, access to expensive equipment, allocated time slot and a very cryptic punched card to run a program whose complexity and outcome was factors simpler than the browser or email client that you are using to read this. And then PCs came along.

  • Ken

    It would be useful if the naysayers would say exactly what their objections are and explain why a lay person couldnot conceivably place a device on any part of their body, or have it done by someone else and the resultant imagery read by a a physician in another location. Isn’t this done today by cooperating consultant physicians? Please explain the difference.

  • RadiologistMD

    Of course a layperson can place a device on a part of the body and obtain an image. What they can’t do without years of training and extensive knowledge of anatomy and disease is perform a diagnostic exam. I know it looks simple as you watch the sonographer work, that is because they are good at what they do. As a radiologist, my interpretation of an exam relies on the skill and intuition of the technician more than any other modality.

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  • Michael Leonard Rowley

    To those where your argument is silly, and based in fear.

    I counter these ideas with an counter arguement that it would only fuel
    peoples need for qualified PAID physicians, as they would need someone to interpret what they see. What does that mean? For every ‘mass’ they see they would need someone to tell them that’s the For example, that the diaphragm [Stupid] not the A or B line.

    As for the argument, saying you don’t need 100’s of thousands of people doing incorrect self-diagnosis. To suggest as a reason against this is that “patients scanning themselves and having a physician diagnose [that video]” is a clever use of words, yet it is only fear based imaginations. I instead envision a person coming in with a self scan, and the physician making a new one, for a price, proving correctness or incorrectness. Your not much of a physician if you can not make a correct diagnosis from your own scan.

    In addition I counter this arguement with an awareness of how the openness and transparency in the open source software market, and the protein modeling software. You could have websites where people volunteer to do self-scans and uploaded the data. The idea that we could have accurate models of 10,000 hearts or lungs, virtual software models.

    I admit that is a poor example, as one person cannot imagine what could be done. But I bet 1000-1, the amateurs willing to purchase a device like this would have more than a passing curiosity, and they may have skills you have yet to discover, use, and improve. Think of how many future engineers are going to be experienced in 3D CAD software before they are even go to college. The same idea would apply to this for future Physicians.

  • BGills

    I know this is an old post, but I couldn’t agree more with Ken.
    Outsourcing of diagnostics interpretation is becoming a more common-place practice, as some imaging centers discover the financial benefits of using data transfer capabilities of the internet. When it comes to imaging, sure there’s a great deal of expertise involved in acquiring the best images for diagnostic purposes.
    Why couldn’t a remote viewer/technician at an imaging center, direct an examination of a lay person, by instructing that lay person to move a transducer up, down, right left, or even change the angle, and pressure of the transducer while watching a streaming-live remote?
    I know the skill of the operator is critical to an accurate diagnosis, but I see this much like robotic surgery, in the sense that a qualified person can direct the actions of someone with a much lower skill-set. Still achieving significant results, without wasted travel time, and expense. It might serve to reduce healthcare costs, while utilizing to the fullest the skills of highly trained, and specialized personnel.