Home Ultrasound Goes Mainstream

Patients performing their own at-home ultrasound exams sounds like a pretty futuristic idea, but it’s becoming increasingly common in Israel due to a growing partnership between Clalit Health Services (Israel’s largest HMO) and DIY ultrasound startup Pulsenmore.

DIY Fertility Ultrasound – Clalit and Pulsenmore just signed an $11M agreement that will equip Clalit’s fertility treatment patients with thousands of Pulsenmore FC ultrasound systems over the next four years. The patients will use the Pulsenmore FC to perform self-exams during the IVF (in vitro fertilization) and fertility preservation processes and then transmit their scans to Clalit’s fertility clinicians. 

Pulsenmore Momentum – Pulsenmore previously provided Clalit with thousands of Pulsenmore ES fetal ultrasound systems, allowing expecting mothers to perform and transmit nearly 15k fetal ultrasounds since mid-2020. Pulsenmore also landed an interesting deal with Tel Aviv’s Sheba Medical Center in early 2021 that allowed pregnant women in Sheba’s COVID ward to perform their own fetal ultrasounds and transmit the scans to the hospital’s maternity ward.

Pulsenmore Potential – Pulsenmore’s early momentum is certainly helped by Israel’s unique healthcare system, but the company also has a European CE Mark (for the ES system), $40M in IPO funding, and ambitions to expand globally.

The Takeaway

The fact that thousands of ultrasounds are being used in Israeli homes shows that the home ultrasound concept has mainstream potential, and there’s a growing list of factors that could make it a reality. We’ve already seen a similar home system from Butterfly Network and a major industry trend towards smaller and easier to use ultrasounds (or even wearable), while the COVID pandemic has increasingly normalized at-home diagnostics and teleconsultations.

It will take some big changes for handheld ultrasounds to become MORE common than the stethoscope, but that idea doesn’t seem as ridiculous as it did a few years ago.

GE Acquires BK Medical

GE Healthcare’s ultrasound portfolio became a lot more diverse last week with its acquisition of surgical ultrasound company BK Medical. Here’s some details and perspectives:

The Acquisition – GE Healthcare will acquire BK Medical from Altaris Capital Partners for $1.45b, separating BK Medical from Analogic. That’s a pretty big investment considering that GE’s ultrasound unit brings in $3b a year.

GE’s Surgical Expansion – With BK Medical, GE’s ultrasound unit expands from diagnostics to intraoperative imaging and surgical navigation, which is reportedly a fast-growing and high-margin business for BK Medical. 

The BK Portfolio – BK Medical got its start in urology ultrasound, and more recently expanded to ultrasound systems used to guide minimally invasive and robotic surgeries and to visualize deep tissue during neuro and abdominal surgeries. That adds up to five unique ultrasound systems.

GE Impact – GE sees a lot of value in BK Medical. BK gives GE an ultrasound portfolio that the other OEMs can’t match (diagnostic, surgical, post-operative), “accelerates” GE’s precision health strategy, and will reportedly deliver “high-single-digit” ROI within five years.

GE Acquisition Trend – While GE Healthcare spent 2018 and 2019 selling major non-imaging businesses (value-based care to Veritas Capital, life sciences to Danaher), GE’s 2020 and 2021 acquisitions have focused on expanding its capabilities within imaging (Zionexa for radiopharmaceuticals, Prismatic Sensors for CT detectors, and now BK Medical for ultrasound). That says a lot about GE Healthcare’s imaging focus, and is quite different from Philips and Siemens, which have increasingly targeted M&A outside of imaging.

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-- The Imaging Wire team