Exec Chat: Butterfly Network Brings Maternal Ultrasound To Underserved Regions
Medtech Insight talked to Sachita Shah, Butterfly Network's director of global health, and John Martin, the company's chief medical officer, to learn more about how point-of-care ultrasound can benefit rural, underserved communities in Sub-Saharan Africa by helping to reduce maternal mortality and childbirth-related complications.
Butterfly Network is expanding its effort to bring point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) technology to underserved markets in Sub-Saharan Africa and around the world following an encouraging experience in Kenya.
Supported by a $5m grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Butterfly supplied 1,000 health care workers in Kenya with its Butterfly iQ+ point-of-care ultrasound systems to improve maternal and fetal health in communities that usually have no access to ultrasound at all. (Also see "Minute Insight: Butterfly Deploys POC Ultrasound In Kenya To Support New Mothers" - Medtech Insight, 20 Sep, 2022.)
Medtech Insight talked to Butterfly Network's chief medical officer John Martin, and Sachita Shah, the company's senior director of global health, to learn how handheld ultrasound can help expectant mothers and their children in underserved parts of the world.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, maternal mortality from pregnancy and childbirth-related complications still occurs at high rates due to limited access to resources for maternal and fetal care. Kenya, like many other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, is trying to improve maternal and fetal health and is working to meet the United Nation’s 2023 Sustainable Development Goals and the World Health Organization recommendation that all pregnant women get an ultrasound scan during pregnancy.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which awarded Butterfly a $5m grant to deploy the Butterfly iQ+ with training to health care workers in Sub-Saharan Africa, has also designated Kenya as a priority country in its mission to enhance maternal and fetal care.
In addition, Butterfly’s Global Health team had pre-established relationships with training partners in Kenya, which helped streamline the planning and execution of the program.
Ultrasound helps providers in rural or limited-resource settings discern which patients have high risk conditions and need access to higher levels of care and scarce resources like operative care and physician specialists for safe deliveries.
In the US, most mothers typically receive at least two ultrasound scans during their pregnancy. In countries with limited access to imaging resources, like Kenya, ultrasound may not be available, and often mothers may never receive a single ultrasound during their pregnancy.
This means that these high-risk conditions can go unnoticed and untreated, leading to avoidable complications during delivery such as bleeding and obstructed labor which can severely impact the health of the mother and baby.
"We are also actively seeking impact funders and government partners that would like to expand or replicate this model in other vulnerable health systems around the globe." – Sachita Shah
As a result of our efforts, 224 facilities in Kenya have free ultrasound services and tens of thousands of scans have already been performed. Within just a few days of receiving a Butterfly device and going through the training, providers were identifying and taking action on high-risk conditions. In fact, our one-month post-training survey found that over 90 percent of novice users have already found a high-risk condition that may have led to the death of the baby or mother.
These providers are the safety net for hundreds of thousands of patients in the region, and now, they have the technology, training and clinical integration knowledge to diagnose high-risk conditions and save lives.
"Ultrasound helps providers in rural or limited-resource settings discern which patients have high risk conditions and need access to higher levels of care and scarce resources like operative care and physician specialists for safe deliveries." – Sachita Shah
Butterfly was created with the mission of bringing lifesaving ultrasound imaging to people around the world, especially those with limited access and in marginalized and vulnerable communities.
Our Global Health Program is a key component of this mission. We recognize that health inequities exist everywhere, so we are continuously forging partnerships to improve care for everyone.
We are confident that this program can serve as a model that can be used in other limited resource settings around the world. We are also actively seeking impact funders and government partners that would like to expand or replicate this model in other vulnerable health systems around the globe.
"We are very proud of our success in Kenya and believe that our probe deployment, paired with the maternal and fetal health POCUS training model we developed in Kenya, is applicable to many other specialties." – John Martin
For example, we have worked with humanitarian organizations and physicians to deploy over 400 Butterfly devices in Ukraine to aid those on the frontlines of the conflict and for Ukrainian refugees.
Butterfly devices have been used by health care providers in rural Alaskan tribal health clinics to reach and treat Native American and Alaska Native patients that otherwise might not have access to medical imaging. We are also supporting a mobile street medicine unit in Boston and are deploying Butterfly devices to help provide high-quality care to the local homeless population.
We believe this program can serve as a model for providing more extensive mobile medical care to marginalized populations with barriers to accessing hospital-based care throughout America’s large urban cities.
"We are also supporting a mobile street medicine unit in Boston and are deploying Butterfly devices to help provide high-quality care to the local homeless population." – Sachita Shah
Today, we have over 350 partners in 70-plus countries across the globe and we will continue to expand our reach both in the US and abroad. The next frontier for continued ease of use for Butterfly’s imaging solution involves integration of artificial intelligence guidance to make our solution even more accessible.
Our global health partners have already had great success in early studies in this arena, and we hope to see this expand in the future.