Low-end disruption coming to the Ultrasound market
Butterfly Networks announced their Butterfly iQ product for release in the Spring of 2018. The iPhone-based product is expected to democratize ultrasound with its sub $2,000 price point. Because of Ultrasound’s current cost and complexity, most imaging today is done in Emergency Rooms and Radiology suites.
In today’s market, a portable ultrasound starts at about $8,000, but with accessories can go as high as $30,000. High-end machines can sell for $100,000. Sonosite, the leader in portable ultrasound devices, doesn’t sell a cell phone sized ultrasound device, but does sell small-footprint devices. A recent check on the Internet found a price of $36,000 for one of their smaller devices and two probes. GE, the second largest manufacturer of portable ultrasound devices, has a cell phone sized device with two transducers, which sells for ~ $12,000. These systems are designed only for trained operators.
Even more interesting than cost, the Company claims that you don’t have to be a trained technician to use the Butterfly iQ—its machine learning algorithms guide the user to find what they might be looking for. With FDA clearance for 13 clinical applications, including obstetric exams, musculoskeletal checks, and cardiac scans, the new device is poised to disrupt and democratize the medical ultrasound imaging industry. In fact, if Butterfly Networks is successful, Ultrasound could replace the Stethoscope among many physicians.
While the product is not yet commercially available, it will be exciting to watch the process of democratization this Spring when it is released. The product portends great changes in the domestic market, but price-conscious, less developed nations could be even bigger beneficiaries.