A handheld ultrasound (Vscan Air) that leads beyond highly specialized areas of medicine such as obstetrics and cardiology to general practitioners.
General Electric announced the launch of its new Vscan Air wireless portable ultrasound machine on Tuesday to take a leadership position in the growing market.
It is the company’s most recent entry into the emerging point-of-care ultrasound market, building on GE Healthcare’s first generation device, the Vscan, released in 2010. Since then, the market has grown rapidly, said Kieran Murphy, CEO of GE Healthcare in an interview with CNBC, the device maker launched the revamped, highly portable Vscan Air to strengthen its position in the market. It will be available in the US and Europe starting Tuesday. It is planned to introduce it in other countries and regions pending official approval.
GE Healthcare estimates that the handheld ultrasound machine market will grow by as much as $ 1 billion over the next decade, and the company plans to capture 30% of that with the Vscan Air by 2025.
The device is about the size of an iPhone, is completely wireless, and costs less than $ 5,000, although the price varies by region. It connects to a smartphone app to read the ultrasound, and GE says the images are safe to share with patients. The device can be used by trained health care providers to quickly assess blood flow, gallbladder disease, and assess and monitor Covid-19 through a lung exam.
Outpatient, ER used
Murphy explained that portable ultrasound devices like the Vscan Air should be used in time sensitive situations and when console-based ultrasound is not available. According to Murphy, the devices could be ubiquitous in emergency rooms, general practitioners’ offices, and all types of outpatient departments such as emergency centers for quick and inexpensive diagnosis. It can also be used in a home setting, as well as in road and air ambulances, as approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Murphy also noted that the pivotal point towards telemedicine with the pandemic and increased use of ambulances could increase the demand for portable tools like the Vscan Air. He said GE will have to do “quite a bit” to increase market awareness through public relations, including on social media and various distribution channels.
“We have seen tremendous growth in the use of telemedicine, teleradiology and remote monitoring over the past year. For people who do not have access to specialized counselors, the fact that they can have access to a doctor armed with one of these resources is going to make a huge difference, “Murphy said of Vscan Air.” I think that’s going to show up everywhere. “
GE isn’t the only one operating in space. Competitors in the point-of-care ultrasound market include digital health company Butterfly Network, valued at $ 3.5 billion, and Koninklijke Philips, of the Netherlands. Murphy said GE plans to leverage its name recognition, ultrasound device track record, and medical device installation base connected through GE’s Edison artificial intelligence health platform to differentiate itself.
Dr. Yale Tung-Chen, head of the Department of Ultrasound in Internal Medicine at the Hospital Universitario Puerta de Hierro in Majadahonda in Madrid, is one of the doctors who had early access to the Vscan Air as a clinical reviewer.
He currently works at the Spanish Isabel Zendal Emergency Hospital Covid-19 and swears by portable ultrasound devices, especially for use in emergency rooms, where time is precious and rapid diagnosis can have serious consequences.
“How can I get 30 full exams in a short time? It’s impossible,” said Tung-Chen of examining patients in a busy emergency room. “I have to pull something out of my pocket and look at it for no more than a minute or two and then make the decision.”
Dr. Yale Tung-Chen, Head of the Department of Ultrasound in Internal Medicine at Universitario Puerta de Hierro Hospital in Majadahonda in Madrid, Spain, was a clinical reviewer for Vscan Air. He is currently working at the Spanish Covid-19 specialist Isabel Zendal Emergency Hospi
Source: Dr. Yale Tung-Chen
Tung-Chen has used many handheld ultrasound machines, including those from GE’s competitors, but said in an interview that he was impressed with the high quality imaging the Vscan Air was able to capture. The two-sided probe design allows technicians to switch between shallow and deep exams by simply flipping the device, he said. Normally the doctor would have to change the probes for this, which costs valuable time.
This feature is especially important in cardiac exams that Tung-Chen used to look for signs of infection that could be due to Covid-19 and to monitor the progression of the disease to see if the patient is getting seriously ill . He said the ultrasound machine can help doctors find early signs of life-threatening diseases such as Covid-19, but added that the device does not fully replace traditional diagnostic tools such as stethoscopes.
“Ultrasound makes bad doctors good and good doctors make good doctors,” he said.
Murphy said he still sees strong growth in 2021. On GE Investor Day last week, the health unit reported free cash flow of $ 2.6 billion for 2020, up from $ 1.2 billion in 2019. Murphy said this was partly due to the delivery of 50,000 ventilators. which have been widely used in the past year to help seriously ill Covid-19 patients.
“We had a successful year. We handled an incredible number of headwinds well,” said Murphy, adding that the company’s role in the pandemic helped improve employee morale.
The company makes most of its money selling and servicing equipment for electoral processes that have been delayed in much of the world as hospitals focus on treating Covid-19 patients. As patients attempt to return to the hospital for x-rays, MRIs, procedures requiring anesthesia, and more, Murphy said it will all benefit business.
The health unit forecasts flat to slightly increasing free cash flow for 2021, based on slight sales growth and an expansion in profit margins.
“Everyone says well, Covid gave you a fantastic year, but Covid suppressed some of the things that come back this year,” he said. “We made a great start and I am very confident that we will have a good year.”
Correction: On GE Investor Day last week, the health unit reported free cash flow of $ 2.6 billion for 2020 compared to $ 1.2 billion in 2019. In an earlier version of this article, free cash flow was misrepresented .