For the first time in over four decades, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology is experiencing a fundamental shift in delivery. Hyperfine Research—a Connecticut-based tech startup founded by serial entrepreneur Jonathan Rothberg—seeks to revolutionize MRI technology with its Lucy Point-of-Care MRI imager. The compact MRI scanner on wheels can create both contrast images and 3D renders of a patient’s brain right at their bedside without the need of trained technicians or electronic shielding. This point-of-care MRI device is one of many digital innovations in the healthcare space in the past decade by tech firms aiming to improve quality and accessibility of care for patients.

The device is considerably smaller than a typical MRI machine and uses 35 times less power due to smaller, permanent magnets that do not require any cooling, according to Hyperfine’s website. It costs less to manufacture, which makes it a more attainable instrument for local hospitals with tight budgets. The machine is also more portable than traditional MRI machines, and its low energy usage makes it desirable for emergency rooms with hundreds of high-risk patients. Doctors can simply plug the machine into a traditional wall outlet for power, control its functions with a handheld iPad and ultimately see the scan results on the same screen. Similar devices from Rothberg’s other companies, like the Butterfly iQ, also apply existing technologies to improve access to certain forms of medical care.

 

healthcare portable MRI
A doctor can roll the portable MRI machine into a patient’s room, plug it into an outlet and begin brain imaging

For individuals, the benefits of the portable MRI are readily apparent: patients and their families can remain together during a stressful procedure, and severely sick patients can remain safely in their hospital beds and still undergo necessary imaging. Brain scan images are visible on a tablet screen shortly after the procedure is finished, creating more opportunity for patients to engage with their care.

Unlike X-ray and CAT scan tests, MRI machines do not use ionizing radiation and are entirely harmless to the patient. By combining this low-risk imaging technique with portable functionality, Hyperfine is “democratizing MRI” with its device, beginning with five leading teaching hospitals including Health System Monitor firm NewYork-Presbyterian.

Hyperfine’s portable MRI device is still new and only recently cleared by the FDA, making it largely unknown to the bulk of U.S. medical professionals. The scanner’s usability is also currently restricted to cranial scans, but the company is eager to expand its performance to neck, back and foot imaging. In light of the FDA clearance, patients may begin to see the Lucy POC MRI machine more frequently in hospitals across the nation.

 

Healthcare Doctor using a hyperfine tablet
A doctor using the Hyperfine tablet to view a patient’s MRI scan results
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