GE unveils small, point of care ultrasound scanner

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NEW YORK CITY--The next-generation of miniaturization of ultrasound technology now looks like a cross between an iPod and a large flip phone and weighs one and a half pounds. GE CEO Jeff Immelt yesterday at a press conference showed off the new GE Healthcare Vscan pocket-sized handheld ultrasound system that the company bills as a visualization tool for the point of care.

The device, which opens like a flip-phone and has a battery life of one hour, features an image screen on the top and circular control pad on the bottom. The system includes one multipurpose probe that spans applications from heart imaging to deep abdominal applications to ob use. Vscan, which already has gained FDA marketing clearance, will be available sometime next year. In the meantime, the company is researching in the U.S., Germany and India the “value proposition” for the device among primary care and critical care providers and within cardiology care—and thus determining the proper price point for the device, said Omar Ishrak, president & CEO of GE Healthcare's clinical systems division. He looks for the system to redefine the physical exam and look beyond vital signs with the potential to identify critical issues patients face.

“The goal is to improve access and instant validation during a physical exam in areas such as the heart, abdomen and OB applications,” Ishrak said. This system offers “enormously powerful image processing, specifically in color. The image quality of the Vscan is the same as a midrange priced ultrasound scanner five years ago [that cost $75,000 to $80,000].”

“The key of this system is the miniaturization of the probe,” Ishrak continued. “The reason we can do this is our 4D cardiac technology and the elements of that we have migrated to this [system]. And the initial feedback [shows clinicians are] immediately impressed. We see that this will offer a true value proposition.”