News & Articles

The Trouble with Tribbles

The Corner Office

Wayne Moore


Just a couple of years ago there were only a handful of pocket-sized ultrasound devices commercially available in the United States. You know the kind: plug an ultrasound probe into your smartphone and “et voilà”, you have an instant diagnostic quality ultrasound device for virtually any clinical application that every user can afford. In 2023 there are acres of companies introducing hand-held ultrasound probes with more being introduced every month. As of this writing you no longer even need to plug the probe into the smartphone to make this happen as data is instantly transmitted and received from the probe to the smartphone and sent back wirelessly. Don’t know anything about how to acquire or interpret the results of an ultrasound image? Not a problem as artificial intelligence (AI), will handle that for you as it seamlessly, and effortlessly, guides you through the myriad of image and Doppler acquisition protocols from echocardiography to breast scanning, and all points in between. No ultrasound education required. Weird though, the product brochures say that the doctor or nurse using the hand-held can obviously reject the AI’s interpretation and analysis of the image if they think the diagnosis is wrong or over-stated. But how can that be if the user has little to no ultrasound background with which to challenge the result? In the Star Trek episode, the Trouble with Tribbles, the crew figured out (almost too late) that these cute little fur balls that mewed like warm kittens didn’t really have anything else of value to offer. Diffusing AI-centric ultrasound technology into the hands of folks with no ultrasound background to reference in order to make a differential diagnosis on complex disease process seems to me to be a bit risky for the patient. I guess it is ok to use one of these little Tribbles if you are looking for a vein to prick, or to see if the patients’ bladder is full, but to use it as the arbiter of patient management, I’m gonna’ say no thanks.

Until Next Month,

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March 1, 2023 Newsletter