Portable technologies help physicians bring diagnostics to patients.

The Vscan is a pocket-sized, battery-powered ultrasound scanner that allows trained clinicians to go into communities and schools to conduct critical tests.

The Vscan is a pocket-sized, battery-powered ultrasound scanner that allows trained clinicians to go into communities and schools to conduct tests for rheumatic heart disease — a disabling and largely preventable disease prevalent among children and adolescents in the developing world.

Where only three cardiologists serve an urban and rural community of 800,000, cost, quality and access are all huge healthcare challenges. 

Facing that situation, Dr. Liew Houng Bang, director of cardiology at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Kota Kinabulu, a provincial capital of East Malaysia, saw in Vscan a tool that “will transform the way we practice.” 

The handheld Vscan can easily be integrated into physical examinations at the point of care, allowing physicians to conduct an internal inspection of the body, to make better and faster on-the-spot diagnoses and to better communicate with patients. Dr. Liew noted that “if you share blood pressure numbers with the layperson and tell them they must take medication for the rest of their lives, it’s a hard sell. Showing them the image of a thick heart can make an impact and hopefully influence patient compliance.” 

Dr. Liew test-drove Vscan in the remote jungle village of Kampong Terian. “With nowhere to recharge Vscan, the battery life allowed me to examine at least 50 villagers, and I identified a few new cases of rheumatic valve disease,” he said.

Dr. Liew continues to work with key stakeholders, including the Malaysian Ministry of Health, to expand use of the health-saving technology. “Vscans are not too costly,” he says, “and they address the issue of accessibility. The key is how to train people up. I think it can be done.”

Portable technologies help physicians bring diagnostics to patients.

The Vscan is a pocket-sized, battery-powered ultrasound scanner that allows trained clinicians to go into communities and schools to conduct critical tests.