A week before giving birth, Doria Wiezman Marely felt the sudden need for an ultrasound. Instead of going to the hospital, Marely did the ultrasound herself, at home, but not because she is a doctor. His insurer, Israel Health Services Clalit, had subsidized a home ultrasound system that transmitted his scans to his doctor that day.
Marely’s intuition had been right: her doctor called to tell her that she had too little amniotic fluid and to go to the emergency room, where her daughter was born a few hours later. “Every minute was critical in that moment, and that really saved us,” Marely said of being able to do his own analysis.
The affordable, home-based fetal ultrasound system used by Marely is made by Pulsenmore, an Israeli company that has worked with that country’s largest HMO to make these devices available to thousands of patients. GE Healthcare recently announced an investment of up to $50 million in the company to help Pulsenmore expand to other countries. GE Healthcare also plans to partner with Pulsenmore to distribute its existing products and develop new ones that take advantage of the growing demand for home care.
“Today, health care providers anticipate a significant shift of care services from traditional facilities to the home by 2025, which will require increased levels of quality and access,” said Roland Rott, CEO of GE Healthcare Ultrasound. “This is precisely why we are investing in Pulsenmore and innovative ultrasound technology for home care.”
Pulsenmore’s Home Ultrasound combines technology similar to that used in traditional ultrasound systems found in hospitals, but simplified and miniaturized for non-professional users. It also takes advantage of cloud computing. For example, Pulsenmore’s mobile app shows pregnant women how to use the ultrasound cradle to perform scans, which are then automatically uploaded to the cloud and reviewed by Clalit clinicians. The results are sent back to the patient’s phone and doctors follow up with a call if necessary.
Healthcare professionals are excited about the technology both because it can help make life easier for patients who are worried about their pregnancies and because it gives doctors a better way to monitor high-risk pregnancies. higher in complications, said Dr. Elazar Sonnenschein, Pulsenmore founder and CEO. At the Chaim Sheba Medical Center in Tel HaShomer, Israel, for example, doctors use the system to monitor high-risk pregnancies through scheduled tele-ultrasound sessions. Doctors guide patients and view scan results in real time and even adjust scanner settings remotely.
A recent use case: Pregnant refugees on the Ukrainian border used Pulsenmore’s devices to perform scans for doctors at Sheba Hospital to read. The effort is part of a “virtual hospital” that allows Israeli medical personnel to treat those injured or displaced by the conflict using telehealth technologies.
Pulsenmore began after Dr. Sonnenschein heard from a relative who was worried about her pregnancy. She hadn’t felt her baby move in a while and wanted the doctor’s opinion on whether to go to the hospital for an ultrasound.
“I started wondering why the ultrasound couldn’t be turned into an in-home monitoring device to help mothers around the world connect with healthcare providers who could review their scans remotely,” said Dr. Sonnenschein.
He modified existing ultrasound devices and eventually redesigned most of the components to create an inexpensive device that produced high quality images and was easy to use. “Our agreement with GE Healthcare is a resounding vote of confidence in our ultrasound technology and our business,” added Dr. Sonnenschein. “With the market leadership and reach of GE Healthcare, we are one step closer to realizing our vision of making home ultrasound universally accessible for remote and trusted care, improving maternal health in the whole world.
Dr. Sonnenschein believes that telehealth services that replicate in patients’ homes the same level of care found in doctors’ offices and hospitals will only grow. The COVID-19 pandemic boosted the trend towards telehealth for obvious reasons – such as the need to prevent infections – and other less obvious ones, such as the burnout that many doctors have experienced, caused by higher patient loads and tedious manual processes.
Pulsenmore’s device allows doctors to better monitor pregnancies that require a higher level of attention, but it also reduces the need for unscheduled emergency room visits. Patients report lower levels of anxiety and more control over their pregnancy.
Additional applications including follicular monitoring for women undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF) and remote monitoring of chronic heart failure (CHF) and end-stage renal disease (ESRD) are currently under development. by Pulsenmore.
“COVID-19 has taught us all about the importance of having such reliable, remote solutions within a variety of care delivery options,” Dr. Sonnenschein said.