The next year should see the emergence of more players in the hot sector of mobile ultrasound.
The hand-off is one of the most important moments in healthcare—that moment when an EMT delivers a patient to an emergency department and advises the attending physicians of the patient’s condition.
But, what if those EMTs could provide more information than ever before, and do so inexpensively? It would mean faster and more accurate treatment for the patient, and less utilization at the hospital.
That’s precisely what Royal Philips is aiming at with the announcement of its new public-private consortium, whose mission is to develop mobile ultrasound technology that can be used in the field by healthcare professionals.
"[Ultrasound] is often the necessary handshake from a patient to a clinician, or a paramedic to an emergency medicine doctor to determine the next step in treatment," said Vitor Rocha, CEO and Senior Vice President of Ultrasound for Philips Imaging Systems, in a company press release. "We believe collaboration around the most innovative technology is the best way to solve the industry's problems."
The consortium makes a nice backstop for Philips, which has invested more than $6.09 billion in developing its existing ultrasound technology, and is a move that will help bolster its position as a leader in providing next-gen ultrasound technologies.
After all, while Philips may dump a lot of cash into R&D, that’s only one part of establishing leadership in a market sector. You need the market to buy into it, as well, and Philips hopes to do so by assembling a high-profile group of medical advisors for their consortium.
With the help and advice of its consortium members, Philips plans to develop app-based ultrasound solutions that work with the Philips HealthSuite Digital Platform.
Establishing a mindshare lead for its connected health-driven ultrasound tech can’t come a moment too soon for Philips. It’s already being challenged by tiny firms like Mobisante—boasting a solution leveraging only a smartphone, an app and an ultrasound wand. And it can’t hurt that the Mobisante solution sells for about $7,500, while more traditional ultrasound machines sell for $300K.
And that’s far from all. According to MIT Technology Review, entrepreneur Jonathan Rothberg has raised $100 million to date to fund development of an ultrasound chip that could cost as little as a stethoscope, the inventor tells the Review.
Rothberg’s technology, which is being developed by startup Butterfly Network, will offer 3-D ultrasound images in real time, through what appears to be a window in the person’s chest. It should only cost a few hundred dollars, Rothberg told the publication.
With inventors beginning to focus on this obvious application of mobile technology, Philips is by no means guaranteed the lead in this new market, particularly when mobile giants like QUALCOMM or LG will inevitably focus on this area. The next year should see the emergence of more players in this space, both large and small, and Philips had best be on guard lest a competitor comes up with a preferred solution first.
About the author: Anne Zieger is a veteran journalist who’s been covering the U.S. healthcare scene for over 25 years. She provides “News with a Twist,” combining solid reporting with expert insights and analysis. Her opinions are her own. You can follow Anne on Twitter @ziegerhealth.