Thanks to a wand offered by a company called Butterfly Network
),there is a way for physicians to perform a remote COVID-19 test from the relative safety of a patient’s home. With the wand, a doctor can perform an ultrasound test on a patient’s lungs by connecting the wand to an iOS or Android phone. The firm’s website notes, “Lung ultrasound has been proven effective in detecting pulmonary involvement and avoiding cross-contamination in suspected COVID-19 patients.”
While the wand is sold to doctors by prescription only in the states, the average Joe can connect the wand to his phone and be guided through the process of using the device thanks to on-screen prompts and the help of a professional. If the wand is being held the wrong way, the doctor on the other end of the phone call will know and advise the user to adjust it accordingly. A doctor conducting the test can remotely control the wand and even zoom in to an area that looks like trouble in order to get a better view. Images can be recorded for further analysis.
Patients normally wouldn’t be conducting their own ultrasound and a tool like the Butterfly IQ wand was being used mostly for research. However, because of the COVID-19 outbreak, the U.S. FDA has temporarily changed its regulations relating to the “availability, functional capability, and portability of imaging systems.” Once the crisis ends though, the old rules will apply.
Hospitals are also using the Butterfly iQ wand
Besides the convenience of using a small wand and a phone, there is also a huge price difference. An ultrasound machine could cost a hospital as much as $75,000 while the Butterfly iQ wand is priced at $2,000 with an annual individual membership fee of $420 for an individual physician. A team of five clinicians will pay $1,200 for a professional team membership for a year and hospitals can request a quote on unlimited licensing. According to the company, the iQ can be purchased if “You are a physician or other practitioner in good standing and licensed by the law of the state in which you practice to use or order the use of the device. Or, you are purchasing the device pursuant to a valid prescription or order from such a physician or practitioner for use in professional practice as authorized by law.”
Butterfly’s website includes a free training course on how to use the wand, how to perform a lung ultrasound, and how to interpret the findings and how they related to COVID-19. Those finishing the course will receive a certificate of completion. Again, to be clear, the wand can be prescribed to a patient who can use it from home, but it is up to a medical professional to make a diagnosis.