On March 22, 2016 GE Healthcare launched Vscan Access, the new and affordable ultrasound system designed specifically for primary healthcare workers such as midwives, general practitioners, paramedics, and clinical officers in developing regions to help mothers who need critical healthcare services.
GE Healthcare officers, Ilocos Norte mayor and volunteers with DOH assistant secretary Eric Tayag.
The World Health Organization said nearly 830 women die every day from complications associated with pregnancy and childbirth, with most of the deaths occurring in developing nations.
“Improving maternal and newborn health remains one of the most pressing challenges facing the global community. From the Millennium Development Goals to the Sustainable Development Goals, many countries still need to reduce pregnancy-related mortality,” said Ivan Arota, country manager for GE Healthcare Philippines.
Together with a team of doctors from Manila and local health workers, GE went to Banna to assess the health of over a hundred pregnant women using the Vscan Access.
More than 120 pregnant women from the remote town of Banna, Ilocos Norte and neighboring municipalities became the first group to benefit from a portable ultrasound device.
“Our goal is to work hand-in-hand with government partners and private healthcare providers to help build a sustainable healthcare system in developing regions globally,” Arota added.
The Vscan Access has a lightweight, portable, damage-and-dust-resistant design, battery-operation with flexible charging options, as well as Bluetooth wireless connectivity so data can be transferred to referral facilities or remote experts easily. Software innovations such as pregnancy education, videos for patients, and a reference library of scan images to support novice users of ultrasound, were also developed with the primary care end-user in mind.
“Maternal death in the eastern towns of Ilocos Norte is one of highest with five to seven deaths a year,” said Carlito Abadilla II, municipal mayor of Banna. “We are happy to partner with GE to make our goal of improving the maternal health situation in our community possible.”
In addition to ultrasound screening, GE Healthcare also supported Banna’s healthcare providers with education, skills training, and knowledge sharing. Around 12 primary health workers, including midwives, nurses, and medical attendants, were trained for several days to use the Vscan Access and perform basic obstetric ultrasound scanning.
“With this portable ultrasound, we can easily scan patients and immediately refer them to a higher facility if we see any problems or abnormalities,” said Dr. Remedios Peralta, municipal health officer of Banna.
Arota said GE Healthcare spent five years conducting field research in more than 20 countries in order to help stakeholders overcome primary care challenges, including physician shortages in high-mortality and low-resource areas, lack of demand for antenatal care (ANC), and lack of access to diagnostic devices.
“Studies have shown that ultrasound can help enable task-shifting to midwives for basic obstetric scanning, mobilize mothers to seek more ANC visits, and improve pregnancy management through early detection and referral of pregnancy complications,” he added.
In 2010, GE made a commitment to the United Nations to develop evidence-based solutions for maternal and child health by 2015. Vscan Access is the latest contribution to that commitment.