I have posted a number of previous notes about portable ultrasound devices. The technology has been widely and rapidly adopted in emergency medicine (see: World's Smallest Ultrasound Device Unveiled) because it increases the speed and quality of diagnoses and also generates additional revenue. It's a good example of how technology is causing "leakage" of imaging procedures to specialties other than radiology. I came across another article about this same topic with special emphasis on the increasing sophistication of chip technology (see: Chip Advances Lift Ultrasound Market, Help Save Lives). Below is an excerpt from it with boldface emphasis mine:
Two hours after the patient had a heart attack...doctors at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York discovered his heart was being compressed by pooling fluid and rushed him to surgery. The quick assessment was made possible by a portable ultrasound machine from Siemens AG dubbed the P10, the smallest currently on the market....New ultrasound devices like the P10 are possible in large part because of analog chip makers, which are racing to develop electronics that allow portability....By improving quality and shrinking size, component makers are hoping to open new markets from emergency care to emerging economies. Expanded use of ultrasound ...could offer inexpensive improvements in patient care, the companies say....Traditionally, ultrasound has been used by radiologists, cardiologists, obstetricians and gynecologists. Now it is an option for new classes of specialists, including anesthesiologists and emergency-care physicians, and even those in Iraq looking for shrapnel in wounded soldiers. It is also within reach for clinics and hospitals in developing countries.
Two ideas in this article caught my attention. The first was the analogy between the deployment of new chips in portable ultrasound instruments and in cell phones. We are all familiar with how the feature/function set of cell phones has rapidly increased while their cost and size have rapidly decreased. We may see a similar phenomenon with portable ultrasound devices. Continuing with this cell phone analogy, this evolving technology allowed less developed countries to set up a sophisticated telecommunications networks without first installing an expensive land-line infrastructure. Downsized ultrasound devices and the development of other imaging devices designed specifically for third-world countries will allow them to rapidly develop more sophisticated healthcare delivery systems.