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Henry Ford Health Uses Digital Health Technology to Improve Ultrasounds

Analysis  |  By Eric Wicklund  
   June 28, 2022

Henry Ford Innovations is partnering with digital health company Exo to apply digital health concepts to ultrasounds, with the goal of making them more portable and accessible to underserved populations.

Henry Ford Health is partnering with a digital health company to make ultrasounds more portable and accessible.

Henry Ford Innovations, the Michigan-based health system's innovation arm, is working with Exo, a California-based developer of point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) technology with a connected software platform. The project aims to bring ultrasounds, which are traditionally conducted in hospitals and medical offices, out to remote and underserved communities, where they can tackle traditional barriers to care.

"We envision a future where handheld portable ultrasound is as ubiquitous as the stethoscope, only more accurate and more capable," Dan Siegel, MD, a musculoskeletal radiologist and vice chairman of radiology quality and informatics at Henry Ford Health, said in e-mail. The technology, he said, would be "able to provide quantitative data and faster, more automated assessment for our patients and providers."

"Through this partnership, we are focused on improving [three] things," he said. "The first is education and training, making sure that all users who have a handheld probe are appropriately trained and credentialed to do appropriate high-quality scans. The second is system-wide standardization, where any clinical scan is performed according to appropriate parameters, annotated and documented in a standardized high-quality method, and stored in a common environment that is easily accessible by any provider or the patient. And finally, to research advanced techniques using machine learning and AI to automate or accelerate the acquisition of images, quantitative assessment of those images, or the automated interpretation of those images to make the learning curve faster for novice users, or users in non-traditional environments [such as] home care and remote medicine."

Siegel said POCUS technology allows care providers to treat patients more comfortable and quickly and wherever patient and provider are located, speeding up the diagnosis and the care plan.

"Instead of having to wait for additional test results, providers can use what they have in their pocket to get near-instantaneous data that can inform clinical decisions right at the point of care," he said. "This is already happening with home care and the mobile integrated health program, helping decide at the point of care in patients' homes whether they are safe to stay at home or not."

"We really see this as just scratching the surface," he concluded. "Ultrasound is such a powerful tool, and the technology continues to get smaller, with higher image quality and less cost. We really do believe this will be the stethoscope of the future, and as more and more young and early-stage clinicians (and students) become familiar with the tool, we will see more and more research around what can be done in novel and unusual clinical settings. All of this will produce substantial benefits for our patients and providers, and for the system as a whole."

Related: Mobile Ultrasound Devices Give URMC Clinicians a New Tool for Decision Support

Eric Wicklund is the associate content manager and senior editor for Innovation, Technology, and Pharma for HealthLeaders.

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