A Vancouver company has launched a line of ultrasound scanners that combine artificial intelligence and a pocket size to make medical ultrasounds accessible to medical professionals whether they’re in an office, an ambulance or a remote refugee camp.
Clarius Mobile Health pioneered the shift from cart-based ultrasounds to portable scanners when it introduced its first portable ultrasound scanners in 2016.
The company recently unveiled its second generation lineup, reducing the size of the devices by almost half and improving the image quality to that of a much more expensive traditional system. Known as point-of-care ultrasounds for their ability to be wheeled to a patient’s bedside, ultrasounds have traditionally been costly, clunky and needing an electrical outlet for power.
“When you compare our solution to traditional point-of-care solutions, it is basically 20 per cent or less of the cost of those machines and our scanners are much more portable, they fit in your pocket and they’re wireless,” said Clarius CEO Laurent Pelissier. “And they are driven by artificial intelligence.
“You have an AI assistant that replaces the need to adjust the 15 to 30 buttons that you have to adjust on a traditional machine.”
The Clarius ultrasound scanner has a rechargeable battery and works with an Android or iOS mobile phone or tablet. The new lineup includes two multi-purpose scanners and four scanners for specialities such as sports medicine and anesthesia. The scanners cost $6,475 each, with the exception of the EC7-endocavity scanner at $8,975. Pelissier said the onetime cost, with a three-year guarantee and no subscription or user fees, the scanners are much more accessible, both in terms of price and usage, than traditional systems.
“Not only are traditional systems big, but they cost $25,000 to $50,000 and they’re not easy to implement, especially in private practice,” he said.
Pelissier said the market for Clarius scanners is North America and western Europe, where they’re used by medical professionals ranging from sports medicine specialists, to emergency physicians and paramedics.
“Paramedics can use them to look for internal bleeding or heart distress and function, for example,” he said. “They can bring a technology to an ambulance that otherwise would have to wait until they got to a hospital.”
Dr. Kevin Zorn, associate professor of urology, minimally invasive urological-oncologist and Director of Robotic Surgery at the Research Center of the University Hospital of Montreal, has been using a Clarius portable ultrasound scanner for the past two years performing more than 1,000 ultrasound exams on his patients.
He sees the portable device as a breakthrough technology, delivering the kind of transformative change to patient care that the stethoscope once did.
“As a urologist I think this is a simple, easy and applicable tool that can greatly accelerate patient care, reduce the already long wait times in our patients’ care and make the experience for both the physician and the patient infinitely better, at a low cost,” he said.
In describing patient care before the arrival of the handheld scanner technology, Zorn outlined a process that started with the patient’s initial examination, followed by a request for an ultrasound, a wait for that appointment, a scan carried out by a technician, followed by a radiologist’s report. The report would go back to Zorn’s office where the patient would have to be seen again for the results and a treatment plan. The process was time consuming, expensive for the medical system and stressful for the patient.
By comparison, the Clarius ultrasound scanner lets Zorn carry out ultrasounds in his office, bypassing the lengthy process of sending a patient to a radiology clinic and ensuring faster treatment. In one example, with a patient he was seeing who had a testicular mass, Zorn was able to carry out an accurate assessment of the cancerous lesion and arrange for prompt surgery without the patient having to wait for an ultrasound appointment at a clinic or hospital.
“This lets me do the ultrasound myself,” said Zorn. “I expect to see more and more ultrasound taught to medical students as part of their anatomy experience. You can actually see the anatomy and not have to wait and rely on radiology to do that for us.
“I think this technology has come of age and should become a standard part of our physical exam.”
Zorn said the Clarius handheld is relatively inexpensive compared to other scanners and medical devices.
“To me it’s a no brainer,” he said. “We buy our stethoscopes for $200 to $500 for some of the higher end ones. A bladder scanner, a vital tool that you find at most nursing stations and in emergency rooms, costs $10,000 to $12,000 CDN.”
Dr. Zorn said a Clarius scanner can carry out the same function as the bladder scanner, plus much more (Doppler, Power Doppler, other advanced features), at about half the cost.
The portability, battery power and wireless capability of the scanners has transformed patient care in remote areas.
Dr. Reinhard Schernthanner, an anesthetist with Austria’s ARCHEMED, on a mission to Eritrea was able carry out ultrasound-guided regional anesthesia to more than 40 children undergoing surgery.
“For me as an anesthetist, an ultrasound is necessary to provide good analgesia,” he said in a release announcing the new scanners.
This story was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division.