A low-cost pocket ultrasound device can see into the human heart. So why do so few doctors use it?

In the history of medical innovation, advances in technology have been inextricably linked to increases in cost. But we are at a unique moment in which the insular world of medicine is about to be penetrated by the remarkable digital infrastructure. Think about the cost of computing. Over the past two decades, cost has been relentlessly reduced while capacity and performance have dramatically increased. How and when can this trend reach the practice of medicine, where costs often go up with little real improvement?

Let’s consider the icon of medicine—the stethoscope draped around the doctor’s neck or in the pocket of a white coat. Invented by René Laënnec in 1816, the stethoscope didn’t see routine use by the medical community for another 20 years. The lag in acceptance reflected the conservative nature of physicians, who objected to having to learn heart sounds and let an instrument get between their healing hands and the patient.

Read the full op-ed on the MIT Technology Review website.