Market Insight

Outpatient growth drives ultrasound equipment volumes

November 03, 2016

Shane Walker Shane Walker Principal Analyst, Medical Technology
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The global ultrasound imaging equipment market is estimated to have been worth $6.16 billion in 2015; an increase of 1.2% from 2014. This rate of growth is lower than previously forecast, which is primarily due to the impact of a strong US dollar and other foreign exchange fluctuations, which affected the sales of foreign US subsidiaries. The market also experienced a period of highly competitive pricing which lowered average sales prices (ASP), particularly in Latin America and Europe. For some vendors, this ASP erosion was further exacerbated by the effects of shifting foreign exchange rates. Stronger growth is predicted for 2016 because of new product launches from Carestream, Fukuda Denshi, Hitachi-Aloka, and VisualSonics (Fujifilm SonoSite), and because of increased volumes in point of care and obstetrics applications. On a unit volume basis, shipments were up by 4% over 2014. The results for 2016 are expected to be closer to a 5% increase. Growth in the market through 2020 is being driven by uptake of mid-range and high-end cart-based systems in both emerging and developed markets for use in traditional applications. Uptake will also be bolstered by further development of the use of compact ultrasound systems in point-of-care (POC) applications.

Key geographic trends
Western Europe
As in 2014, growth in the Western-European ultrasound market remained soft in 2015. The re-evaluation of healthcare spending continued in the aftermath of the Eurozone crisis. As a result, healthcare providers continued to be cautious when purchasing ultrasound equipment for newer applications. The ultrasound market in Western Europe is saturated with cart-based ultrasound systems primarily sold as replacements for the installed base.

North America
Dominated by the United States, the North-American market experienced modest revenue gains of nearly 1.1% during 2015, reaching $1.5 billion. Volumes were up in the United States because of a push for low-radiation-dose imaging options because of more imaging occurring in outpatient facilities. The United States has proven to be less price sensitive than other regions, which is increasing competition in the high-end market. Although there has been some impact from imaging moving from a fee-for-service revenue source to a pay-for-value cost center, demand is still present. Revenue growth in the Latin-American market is forecast with a CAGR of 2.8% from 2014 to 2020, with more volume coming from cart-based equipment than compact.

The rate of growth in the Chinese ultrasound market has slowed in recent years, but is still forecast with a relatively strong CAGR of 3.9% from 2014 to 2020. Growth in the Chinese market will be driven by investment in tier-1 and tier-2 county hospitals. This is forecast to shift demand to mid-range cart-based systems as rural hospitals purchase higher-functionality systems to improve the standard of care.

US medical sonographer survey
As part of our 2016 ultrasound analysis, IHS Markit conducted a survey of medical sonographers located in the United States. The survey report is based on a questionnaire of 32 credentialed and practicing medical sonographers. Most respondents are practicing at large institutions, followed by medium and super institutions. Stand-alone imaging facilities represented 12.5% of the respondents, followed by primary care providers with 9.4%. GE Healthcare equipment was found to be the most prevalent and used by 24.1%, followed by Philips with 14.9%, Siemens with 10.3%, and Boston Scientific with 9.2%.The primary aim of the survey was to understand medical sonographer awareness and use of ultrasound technology.

Key questions posed at the outset included:

  • What is the prevalence of certain makes being used today?
  • What is the awareness for other brands beyond those being used in the practice today?
  • What channels are typically used to gain this awareness and subsequently make a purchase?
  • Who are the key influencers for these purchasing decisions?
  • What features are most interesting and which may be required in the future?
  • What are the application areas that are making the most use of ultrasound equipment?
  • Are the pieces of ultrasound equipment being connected to the hospital information system? Are hospitals making use of archiving?

Key findings from the respondents
Following are some of the key findings from the report:

  • 66% of respondents have ultrasound equipment on hand that is between one and three years old. 19% of respondents have equipment between three and five years old.
  • The majority of respondents are aware of the different makes of ultrasound equipment through using the equipment prior to their latest equipment purchase. 38% gained awareness through a product evaluation request from their purchasing board, hospital value analysis committee, or some other administrative entity.
  • On average transducers are replaced most often, on average after 3.5 years, followed by compact units after 4.4 years and cart-based units after 4.6 years. Convex transducers are the most common followed by 3D/4D endovaginal transducers.
  • A narrow majority of respondents do not believe that ultrasound is replacing other modalities at their facilities at this time. 31% of the respondents stated that ultrasound is being used as a replacement for, or at least more frequently before, other modalities such as CT and MRI.
  • 78% of the respondents stated that their facilities do connect the ultrasound systems to the PACS system. 88% of respondents stated that they save and export data from the ultrasound system’s local archive.
  • The majority of respondents stated that second-opinion-related features are important in their daily activity.

More information on the global ultrasound market is available in the Ultrasound Intelligence Service from IHS Markit.

Research by Market
Healthcare Technology
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