In rural African villages, proper healthcare of any kind can be next to impossible to come by. Many patients either cannot afford treatment or are misdiagnosed. In some cases, medicine is given en masse, regardless of whether it will actually help or not. This is done most often in countries where there are too many impoverished people spread in a wide area with little to no outside access to healthcare.
In cases such as these, foreign aid often sends in teams of doctors and medical professionals to help. One of the best things they can do is make proper diagnoses, which can ensure proper, affordable treatment is reached or can be given on-site. The problem is that equipment that can aid in these diagnoses is bulky, consumes a lot of power and is expensive both to purchase and upkeep. In some countries, devices such as MRI and ultrasound machines are rare enough to only be found at hospitals in the nation’s capital.
This is where the Butterfly iQ comes in. Dr. Jonathan Rothberg was inspired to create this technology after seeing how often his daughter had to return to the hospital for an MRI. The Butterfly iQ is a portable ultrasound machine. It plugs into an iPhone and an A.I. program creates the image based on the scan. It allows for an ultrasound wherever someone has a phone, for example, a traveling foreign aid funded doctor,
The Butterfly iQ’s production was fully funded just two years ago. A campaign aimed at private investors saw $250 million poured into creating the device, and it is currently used by both individuals and professional teams. Not only is it small and portable, but it’s also very affordable at just under $2,000, plus a subscription fee for the accompanying app.
The cost is so low for a number of reasons. For one, the size. The Butterfly iQ is a small, pocketable machine, and doesn’t cost much to build. Second, instead of the quartz crystals used by most ultrasound machines, the Butterfly iQ uses thousands of tiny metal drums. The lack of a rare resource in its production allows many more to be made and for a lower cost.
The Butterfly iQ and its impact in rural Africa are becoming very relevant, as traveling medical teams are using them for diagnoses. They have even been able to treat people who might normally not come in to receive an ultrasound thanks to its versatility. “You will be able to see your unborn baby,” is a promise that draws in many, while also detecting early-stage pneumonia that could prove fatal to the child or mother.
Being cheap, easily usable and effective is the name of the game for technologies aiming to help impoverished areas. The Butterfly iQ is all of these, and its use is set to become more widespread, with help from USAID. The Butterfly iQ and its impact in rural Africa will no doubt be making more headlines soon.
– Mason Sansonia