Is the Cost of Ultrasound Tech Falling?
In economics, understanding the supply and demand curve is key to understanding a market’s pricing equilibrium. As demand rises and supply falls, prices rise; when supply rises and demand falls, prices fall as well. What happens when both supply and demand rise?
In the case of ultrasound technology, innovation is driving demand up and prices down. This is a familiar pattern in consumer technology products. When televisions made their initial market debut, they were bulky, heavy, and prohibitively expensive. Over time, innovation made them slimmer, lighter, and significantly cheaper. Ultrasound innovation echoes this journey from bulky equipment and hazy results to portable probes and a whole spectrum of sophisticated diagnostic imaging applications. And as systems grow smaller and less expensive to produce, demand for high-tech imaging options rises, and prices begin to fall.
Access and affordability
Ultrasound hasn’t always been affordable. Even now, state-of-the-art systems produced by industry leaders, including GE, Siemens, and Philips, range from $20,000 to $200,000 for new, frequently basic models with nary a bell or whistle. The high cost of medtech points to another persistent healthcare problem: Access to cutting-edge diagnostic imaging is often determined by a patient’s financial and geographical circumstances. It’s only recently, thanks in large part to ultrasound technology innovations, that higher demand and lower production costs rebalanced to adjust medtech market equilibrium downward — allowing prices to fall and access to expand.
Today’s ultrasound technologies are increasing the odds of even more access and affordability in the future. For example, the University of British Columbia (UBC) recently tested a capacitive micromachined ultrasound transducer (CMUT) made with a polymer resin. “In tests, the polyCMUT-containing transducer produced sonograms just as sharp as those created using piezoelectric crystals,” and the entire build was assembled for less than $100. Such remarkable, if singular, results illustrate the extraordinary potential of innovation.
Innovation and competition
CMUT technology, polymer resin, and other hardware materials aren’t the only innovations making ultrasound more affordable. Software developments are contributing to a better, cheaper, and more applicable ultrasound experience across the healthcare ecosystem.
Consider a cutting-edge product like the NextGen LOGIQ e Ultrasound from GE. New, it retails for $18,000 to $28,000, depending on its included features. The price of this point-of-care ultrasound (PoCUS) may seem high, but its broad diagnostic capability makes it a high-value investment for healthcare systems. The LOGIQ e is optimized for precision imaging across multiple point-of-care applications, from a scheduled, clinician-administered prenatal exam to an emergency cardiac evaluation conducted by an EMT in the field.
With success comes more demand — and more competition. Medtech giants, ultrasound startups, SaaS digital imaging platforms, and medical device manufacturers are all competing for a piece of the PoCUS technology sector. And the competition is driving prices down.
Supply and demand
Better tech. More competition. Lower costs. Expanded access. All this is predicated on rising demand for ultrasound and other diagnostic imaging solutions. As healthcare providers strive for a more proactive, informed approach to patient diagnosis and treatment, ultrasound technology is more valuable, and affordable, than ever. And with all this innovation and economic synchronicity occurring in and around medtech markets, it’s patients who benefit most.
What starts with supply and demand comes full circle to drive more innovation, expand patient access, and create a higher standard of healthcare.