Exo Acquires Medo AI

Exo took a big step towards making its handheld ultrasounds easier to use and adopt, acquiring AI startup Medo AI. Although unexpected, this is a logical and potentially significant acquisition that deserves a deeper look…

Exo plans to integrate Medo’s Sweep AI technology into its ultrasound platform, forecasting that this hardware-software combination will streamline Exo POCUS adoption among clinicians who lack ultrasound training/experience. 

  • Medo’s automated image acquisition and interpretation software has clearance for two exams (thyroid nodule assessments, developmental hip dysplasia screening), and it has more AI modules in development. 

Exo didn’t disclose acquisition costs, but Medo AI is relatively modest in size (23 employees on LinkedIn, no public info on VC rounds) and it’s unclear if it had any other bidders.

  • Either way, Exo can probably afford it following its $220M Series C in July 2021 (total funding now >$320m), especially considering that Medo’s use case directly supports Exo’s core strategy of expanding POCUS to more clinicians.

Some might point out how this acquisition continues 2022’s AI shakeup, which brought three other AI acquisitions (Aidence & Quantib by RadNet; Nines by Sirona) and at least two strategic pivots (MaxQ AI & Kheiron). 

  • That said, this is the first AI acquisition by a hardware vendor and it doesn’t represent the type of segment consolidation that everyone keeps forecasting.

Exo’s Medo acquisition does introduce a potential shift in the way handheld ultrasound vendors might approach expanding their AI software stack, after historically focusing on a mix of partnerships and in-house development. 

The Takeaway

Handheld ultrasound is perhaps the only medical imaging product segment that includes an even mix of the industry’s largest OEMs and extremely well-funded startups, setting the stage for fierce competition. 

That competition is even stronger when you consider that the handheld ultrasound segment’s primary market (point-of-care clinicians) is still early in its adoption curve, which places a big target on any products that could make handheld ultrasounds easier to use and adopt (like Medo AI).

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.

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-- The Imaging Wire team