The handheld ultrasound market has been slow to take off in recent years, but a burst of growth could be on the horizon, according to a new report from Signify Research.
Simon Harris, the report’s author, noted that cardiologists and emergency medicine specialists made up much of the handheld ultrasound market’s initial wave of growth. This was followed by what Harris called “the current wave” of growth, which includes office-based specialists who want the technology so they provide a wider range of services during initial appointments with patients.
“The expanding customer base, coupled with the increased availability of affordable handheld scanners, is forecast to boost global sales of handheld ultrasound by over 50% in 2019,” Harris wrote. “However, the increasing use of ultrasound beyond the hospital comes with challenges. Firstly, there is limited reimbursement available in most countries and even where it is available, office-based physicians typically do not have reporting processes in place to ensure exams are compliant with billing requirements. Moreover, credentialing, data security and quality assurance (both for image capture and interpretation) can be challenging.”
Where Harris sees the most potential for this market in the years ahead is primary care physicians.
“Primary care remains a largely untapped market for handheld ultrasound, and is potentially the largest opportunity, with more than 250,000 primary care physicians in the U.S. alone,” he wrote. “To date, the use of handheld ultrasound in primary care has been mainly limited to rural areas, initially in developed countries and more recently in low- and middle-income countries.”
In areas currently using handheld ultrasound, he explained, it is being used to improve patient access to medical imaging, and it is likely urban primary care providers will continue to embrace the technology for that same reason.
Prices are also down for handheld ultrasound solutions being offered by numerous vendors, and the systems are being designed so that they are more user-friendly than ever before. And yet another key reason the market is poised to see a lot of growth is progress being made on the use of AI in ultrasound.
“In the near future we expect to see AI solutions with broader functionality that can support in the detection and diagnosis of multiple conditions for a body area,” Harris concluded. “In parallel, the first handheld scanners with AI to support during the image acquisition process are expect to hit the market in the next year or two. The advent of smart devices with AI for both image acquisition and interpretation will be the catalyst for the more widespread use of handheld ultrasound, both in primary and multiple other care settings. By 2023, the global market for handheld ultrasound is forecast to exceed $400 million.”