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GE shows off pocket-size ultrasound scanner

At the Web 2.0 Summit, GE CEO Jeff Immelt shows off a piece of health care hardware: a tiny ultrasound device.

Jeff Immelt holds the GE Vscan ultrasound scanner.
Rafe Needleman/CNET

SAN FRANCISCO--In a wide-ranging interview at the Web 2.0 Summit, Jeff Immelt, CEO of General Electric, announced a low-cost and very portable ultrasound scanner called the Vscan.

"It's about the same size as a BlackBerry," Immelt said, holding up a white device that appeared to fold in the middle like a flip-phone. The top of the device showed an ultrasound image (of a patient's liver, we were told), while the bottom showed control keys.

"This is Moore's law," he said, saying that the device had the same power as a console ultrasound from two to three years ago that would cost $250,000.

The price of the device was not revealed, but Immelt asked the audience to imagine these devices going to Africa and helping health care providers there determine "if a baby is breech," for example. "This could be the stethoscope of the 21st century," he said.

Immelt also gave a demo of an enhanced online medical records system, in which patient data is combined with clinical outcome data and research to help caregivers apply effective and current treatments to patients. Medical records, he said, don't win only because they give patients portable electronic files, but rather, "it's about making better clinical decisions faster."

On the topic that the Web 2.0 audience was expecting to learn more about, the potential sale of GE's NBC Universal, Immelt said, "An IPO would be fine." Also: "You've got to think a couple of years head in this space and think, there might be other partnerships. We've got all the options."

See also: Comcast CEO: We are not a dead duck.

See also: Smallest ultrasound system for fast diagnoses