Solving The Ultrasound Probe-lem With Usono
In episode 19 of 15 Minutes with the Doctor, I chat to Victor from Usono. A Dutch company that specialises in improving and innovating the use of ultrasound in healthcare. They develop smart ultrasound accessories that help to make the application of ultrasound better. Learn how their story started with a university project, why the big ultrasound manufacturers support the product, and about their future ambitions.
– How Usono began.
– How does the product work?
– How did they know the product was needed?
– Why the product didn’t exist before?
– Patent protection at an early stage.
– Funding the business.
– If I could grant you a wish for Usono?
– Advice to other entrepreneurs and innovators.
How Usono began.
Benjamin, who is the current CEO met Victor through field hockey at the university campus. Benjamin was studying Bio-medical engineering and was researching developing software algorithms to detect muscle illnesses for children using ultrasound.
However, he had a problem.
There was no way he could fix the ultrasound probe to the muscle.
One day, he asked Victor to design a product that could help him with his problem. Being an industrial design student, and passionate about developing innovation for the medical world, he agreed.
‘’The two of us together with another friend started to work on the project.’’
They slowly gathered interest from hospitals through the simple tool they had developed to fixate the ultrasound transducer to the upper leg. They later began to liaise with hospital radiologists and cardiologists to help develop the product further.
How does the product work?
The Probefix was launched a few months ago and allows attachment of the ultrasound device direct to the chest so the heart can be monitored.
The Probefix Dynamic is an enhanced version of the first product they created. It focuses on muscle monitoring in the arms or legs and is currently being developed.
‘’We’re looking to develop the Probefix and Probefix Dynamic for use in muscle movement using ultrasound for applications in other areas such as stress acute cardiology and to monitor a muscle or an organ for a period of time.’’
How did they know the product was needed?
Usono contacted hospitals directly in regards to their interest for such a product and gathered their feedback.
‘’We’re in contact with the ultrasound manufactures such as Philips and they all agree that there is a real need and benefit from using a product such as Probefix.’’
They discovered sonographers found it uncomfortable to hold the ultrasound probe in the same area for a prolonged period of time. From multiple sources of research, they found that 70–80% of the sonographers suffer from repetitive strain issues which cause them to have significant periods of work causing cost implications for the hospitals.
Why didn’t the product exist before?
‘’The ultrasound manufacturers claim it’s too small a business for them.’’
The ultrasound system is very large and complicated which includes high costs and therefore, such a small accessory is a small-scale business. Hence, they opt to work with accessory suppliers such as ourselves.
Patent protection at an early stage.
Very early on, a doctor from Erasmus University and another one in the Netherlands found the product very interesting and wanted to demonstrate it at an International Conference.
‘’Our advisors told us that if we wanted our products represented internationally, we had to start the patent process early.’’
Usono patented the product which helped them innovate openly because the product is protected internationally and therefore, they can present it at multiple venues.
How did they fund the business at the beginning?
They business began while they were students, it was initially financed through pocket money and part time work. Following this, they were selected for the high tech Excel program, which is a world-rated accelerator program at their campus in Eindhoven.
‘’We had a lot of support from entrepreneurs and business people.’’
They started to grow the business through investment from angel investors using an online platform where they raised 165 000 Euros.
“Eindhoven is the smartest square kilometer in the world, based on the number of patents in relation to the number of people.”
If I could grant you a wish for Usono, what would you like?
“That Probefix will be used in any country in the world. Also, that it will support the sonographers and the medical specialists in reducing RSI issues and also having a large impact on heart disease of patients.”
What advice would you give to health care entrepreneurs and innovators?
“To just do it. As an entrepreneur in health tech, I would encourage that one gets to know the field and your users, know the people you are operating with.”