Written by: Medical writing assistance was provided by Dr Brigitte Scott | MarYas Editorial Services, Cowlinge, UK.
Byline: This product launch review article was derived from discussions with Dr Ralf Menkhaus, Minden Fertility Center, Minden, Germany; Dr Aly Youssef, St Orsola Malpighi University Hospital, Bologna University, Bologna, Italy; and Mr Steve Hussey, the General Manager for Women’s Health Ultrasound EMEA, GE Healthcare GmbH, Solingen, Germany.
Disclosure: Mr Hussey is an employee of GE Healthcare. Dr Menkhaus and Dr Youssef have reported no conflicts of interest.
Disclaimer: The publication of this article was funded by GE Healthcare. The opinions expressed in this article belong solely to the named interviewees.
The Voluson™ SWIFT Launch
THE LAUNCH of the state‑of‑the‑art Voluson™ SWIFT (GE Healthcare, Chicago, Illinois, USA) on 29th September 2020 marked a revolutionary progression in ultrasound technology. Mr Steve Hussey, General Manager at Women’s Health Ultrasound EMEA, GE Healthcare, explained that the innovative design of the Voluson SWIFT simplifies and optimises the ultrasound experience for the end‑user through intuitive touchscreen technology and embedded features, and simultaneously provides high-quality images and the opportunity for a flexible workflow. He added that the Voluson SWIFT uniquely incorporates high-end features at a mid‑range price compared with conventional ultrasound devices. In addition, a comprehensive security, education, training, and support package provides broader value than just the device itself. Mr Hussey described how the groundbreaking virtual launch included five ‘Meet the Expert’ sessions covering various aspects of the Voluson SWIFT clinical capabilities. These sessions enhanced clinical value and provided the opportunity to inform and teach new skills to obstetrics and gynaecology doctors, nurses, midwives, sonographers, and assisted‑reproductive technology professionals. According to Mr Hussey, “the Voluson SWIFT was designed to enable healthcare professionals, including those who are less experienced in ultrasound, to produce consistently high-quality scans and help patients get onto the correct clinical care pathway quickly and effectively.”
Two key end-users, Dr Ralf Menkhaus, Minden, Germany, and Dr Aly Youssef, Bologna, Italy, both of whom have a wealth of experience and expertise in using ultrasound for obstetrics, reproductive health, and gynaecology, were interviewed in August 2020 to gain their perspectives on their operator experience with the Voluson SWIFT.
A Clear Design with a Simplified Layout
Ultrasound machines are traditionally complicated and difficult to use: the Voluson SWIFT has a unique, clear, ergonomic design; a modern appearance; and a simplified layout, with considerably fewer keys compared with traditional machines (13 compared with an average of 64). The compact size, adjustable height, and screen angle of the Voluson SWIFT enable easy transportation and use, even in small examination rooms and theatres. Portability of the Voluson SWIFT is enhanced by a long battery life that provides more flexible working. In addition, Dr Menkhaus indicated that the ergonomic design of the IC9B-RS probe makes scanning a more comfortable experience because the operator does not have to lift their hand as often. The Voluson SWIFT is also quick and easy to clean (a ‘clean mode’ prevents the machine from deactivating during cleaning), which is important for use in theatre, particularly during the coronavirus disease (COVID‑19) pandemic.
The Touchscreen Feature Inspires Intuitive Use
An evolutionary touchscreen feature, similar to that of a tablet or smartphone, inspires intuitive Voluson SWIFT use and provides an exceptional user‑interface experience. Adjusting image size or zooming in on structures by touch is a highly responsive feature and will be familiar to many users who are conversant with such movements on smart devices. The screen is reactive, even when the operator is wearing gloves, which is particularly important in the COVID‑19 era. Dr Menkhaus described how navigating between two-dimensional (2D) and three-dimensional (3D) space is usually difficult with standard ultrasound devices; however, the selection of scan modes (2D, 3D, colour, pulsed Doppler) on the Voluson SWIFT by means of a simple, self‑explanatory swipe‑up field enables easy, efficient movement between the different modes. According to Dr Menkhaus, “setting measurements by touchscreen or by hard key is a good combination of familiar and new workflow; the operator can decide which method they prefer. The removal of most of the hard keys encourages the operator to adapt to touchscreen technology and this is good progress.”
Time‑Saving, Logical Workflow
Ultrasound is habitually time‑consuming. To address this, Mr Hussey outlined, the Voluson SWIFT encompasses many embedded features to optimise the workflow and increase efficiency for busy healthcare professionals. The logical workflow commences with a simple touch on the patient icon on the screen to enter the patient’s name and start a new examination. The keystrokes and nomenclature used to select the examination are similar to previous ultrasound machines, aiding familiarity and saving time; therefore, the workflow is very sympathetic to existing customers. Probe presets enable easy and quick selection of preferred and regularly‑used probes. Mr Hussey summarised: “There is a faster learning curve with the Voluson SWIFT compared with earlier machines, so the time to operator confidence is reduced, particularly in those who are familiar with smart technology.”
Customised Features Enable Specialty‑Focussed Working
Mr Hussey emphasised that ultrasound can be perceived as being inflexible but now, with the Voluson SWIFT, it is adaptable. He described how the Voluson SWIFT can be customised to incorporate only the features the end‑user needs, enabling several professionals with a range of abilities to each work with their own speciality‑focussed workflow consecutively, on the same machine on the same day. Dr Youssef considered: “There has been a huge jump in software quality, with options reduced to the necessary applications and the capacity to conduct both basic and complex scans.” Dr Menkhaus particularly favoured the obstetric presets, with self‑explanatory Doppler sonography preset options (Flow Profiles) that take into account the various flow velocities in different blood vessels, e.g., high‑flow velocity for uterine vessels and low‑flow velocity in fetal vessels, such as the umbilical cord or ductus venosus. Specific presets at a touch of the screen enable even the less experienced healthcare professionals to find vessels of interest quickly. The Voluson SWIFT also supports qualitative elastography, with systems that provide a quantitative grade of hardness and softness, ranging from 0 to 9 in one step size.
Integrated Artificial Intelligence and Automated Tools
The Voluson SWIFT is embedded with the very latest artificial intelligence (AI), explained Mr Hussey. The new SonoLystIR (Image Recognition [GE Healthcare]) in combination with the Scan Assistant tool automatically identifies and documents up to 20 standard scan planes in the second trimester. Mr Hussey also discussed SonoCNS (GE Healthcare), another AI tool that automatically detects the three standard sectional planes of the fetal brain and automatically measures head circumference, biparietal diameter, cerebellum, cisterna magna, and posterior ventricle. In addition, he explained that the Voluson SWIFT provides automatic scanning to count and measure follicles in assisted‑reproductive technology (in vitro fertilisation) cycles (SonoAVC™ follicle [GE Healthcare]). Dr Youssef reflected: “AI cannot substitute for operator experience but is an aid to improve scan quality, simplify previously difficult scans, reduce examination time, and enhance operator confidence.”
The cutting‑edge technology and large screen of the Voluson SWIFT ensure high-quality images. Dr Youssef stated that he regards the image quality of the Voluson SWIFT as “extremely competitive.” The Voluson SWIFT also provides easy access to archives and the option to send images and videos to patients via SMS and cloud-based technology, such as Tricefy™ (HealthNetConnections, Aldershot, UK). Dr Menkhaus has used the Voluson SWIFT on nearly all his gynaecological patients and commented on the “striking image quality in 2D and 3D imaging and the good colour sensitivity.” The Voluson SWIFT is fully configured to undertake 3D/four-dimensional (4D) imaging transabdominally and transvaginally in gynaecological and obstetrics applications (the Voluson SWIFT does not support a 3D/4D linear probe). The Voluson SWIFT also has software available to evaluate contrast-agent imaging (hysterosalpingo contrast sonography imaging only). Contrast‑agent imaging is available on the following standard transducers: C1-5-RS, RIC5-9A-RS•, and 3Sc-RS. In addition, it is possible to make clips recording colour‑Doppler waves with the Voluson SWIFT, taking up to (32 MB) 1 minute of motion time depending on sweep speed.
Positive Patient Experience
According to Dr Menkhaus, patients have responded positively to the Voluson SWIFT, appreciating the combination of a compact, clean design and the latest technology. Dr Youssef considered that the ease of use of the Voluson SWIFT will inspire confidence in the operator and this in turn may enhance patient comfort during their scan. Patients have also been impressed by the Voluson SWIFT image quality and the large screen has provided a unique experience. Dr Youssef explained: “In the labour ward, using the portable Voluson SWIFT machine creates a more personal experience for the mother‑to‑be as they can see the fetal head on the huge screen and feel more involved in their labour progress.”
Mr Hussey reiterated that the Voluson SWIFT is designed for simplicity, efficiency, and adaptability to its user. It provides exceptional imaging and a broad range of features across a wide variety of applications. Clinically focussed software packages for obstetrics, gynaecology, reproductive medicine, and labour and delivery help to optimise the system for each clinical setting.
Dr Menkhaus summarised: “The Voluson SWIFT is a good all-round ultrasound machine that signifies a new era of AI in ultrasonography. It fulfils all requirements of daily routine in gynaecology, reproductive medicine, and pregnancy care.”
Dr Youssef concluded: “The Voluson SWIFT is a completely new industrial design and is like nothing else on the market. The image quality, options, software, and performance of the Voluson SWIFT are surprising, with quality near that of high‑end machines.”
Approval number: JB02267XX