Leveraging the technology that mobile device makers like Apple and Samsung are packing in to their smartphones and tablets is an increasingly common theme in the mobile health industry.

A recent patent filing suggests that a major medical device company may be joining the party.

Over a year ago, we covered the FDA approval of Mobisante’s MobiUS ultrasound, which paired an ultrasound probe with a Windows Toshiba smartphone (which we hope to see moving to Android soon!).

A recent patent filing by Sonosite, an ultrasound device maker worth over $750m, suggests they are moving towards using tablets like the iPad with future ultrasound probes.

Currently, Sonosite has gone the way of many device makers with offerings of proprietary mobile solutions for their devices – in this case, their NanoMaxx mobile ultrasound system. Paired with a number of different ultrasound probes, the device aims to provide both portability and versatility.

The challenge, however, with proprietary systems is that they are often unfamiliar and difficult to use. They require a greater deal of practice and time, rather than being intuitive and straightforward to be used. Consumer tablets, like the iPad, are designed in precisely the opposite fashion.

One interesting feature of the patent application, which appears to be for a tablet case, is the inclusion of features like an additional battery and chips for pre-processing of images. The latter, in particular, suggests how Sonosite may be avoiding the need for FDA review of the iPad itself – something Apple would almost certainly never support.

If the images obtained by the ultrasound probe are captured and processed by a system within the case itself, with the iPad as merely a vehicle for display, that would reduce regulatory scrutiny of the tablet itself. In that case, its use is more akin to the review of radiology images on tablets.

The fact that use of consumer tablets is now capturing the interest of established device makers strongly suggests that the medical applications of the iPad and other tablets is just beginning.