Elective Procedures are Surpassing Pre-Pandemic Levels, Giving Philips and Others an Edge (The MedTech Download)

Kelly Springs-Kelley
May 05, 2021

Key Takeaways

  • Elective procedures have returned and a re exceeding 2019 volumes, prompting companies like Philips and Johnson & Johnson to report rebounds.
  • Besides impacting medical devices and care, AI in healthcare is accelerating and contributing to the discovery and development of new pharmaceuticals.
  • CMS has recently finalized an extension of a pricing model for hip and knee replacements with input from leaders in MedTech.

Philips Raises Guidance as Elective Procedures Exceed Pre-Pandemic Levels

In 2020, as hospitals were overflowing with COVID-19 patients, those outside the healthcare industry were shocked to learn that many institutions were in financial trouble. With so many patients to care for, it seemed unfathomable that revenue was an issue. While there are several reasons behind hospitals falling short financially, one major issue was the mass cancellation of elective procedures. But, as the year passed and we learned more about the virus and how to live with it, procedures began to reemerge.

Now, well into 2021, the combination of mass vaccinations, lower infection rates, and virus-fatigue has led to the resumption of business-as-usual in many areas of life, elective procedures included. In fact, recently Philips raised its guidance for the full year due to a 9% comparable sales growth, lifted by elective procedures which by March had exceeded 2019 volumes. And they are not alone. Companies like Johnson & Johnson, Edwards Lifesciences, and Intuitive Surgical are also reporting increases in volume, with expectations that the trend will continue through the rest of the year.

AI in Healthcare to Reinforce Drug Discovery and MedTech Applications

In many respects, technology in healthcare has been transformative for the patient and provider. For the patient, new technologies deliver better outcomes and larger variety of therapies, improving and often prolonging lives. For providers, AI in healthcare produces efficiencies, insights, and capabilities that allow them to get back to what they do best – care for their patients. Medical technologies give doctors the tools and access to data that they need to make better decisions and give patients the attention they need.

But, often when we immediately think of AI in healthcare, many times it is in the realm of devices. But as MedTech Intelligence explores, AI can play a significant role in the discovery of new pharmaceuticals. The article points out that, “through the conventional route, it can take nearly a decade for new medications to reach this stage, while it should be noted that clinical trials could span six to seven years and have less than a 12% approval rate.” It goes on to say that “it has been projected that AI can help new drugs reach the clinical trial stage over five times faster, whilst cutting down industry costs by almost 30%.”

CMS Finalizes Joint Replacement Pricing Extension with Input from MedTech Industry

In 2016, CMS introduced the Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement (CJR) model with the goal to “support better and more efficient care for beneficiaries undergoing the most common inpatient surgeries for Medicare beneficiaries: hip and knee replacements.” As part of the rationale behind the initiative, the agency reported that “despite the high volume of these surgeries, quality and costs of care for these hip and knee replacement surgeries still vary greatly among providers. For instance, the rate of complications like infections or implant failures after surgery can be more than three times higher at some facilities than others.” As a result, the CJR model is intended to hold “participant hospitals financially accountable for the quality and cost of a CJR episode of care and incentivizes increased coordination of care among hospitals, physicians, and post-acute care providers.”

CMS recently finalized a three-year extension along with revised aspects of the model, which has driven down the cost of hip and knee replacement procedures in recent years. As MedTech Dive reports, “companies and organizations including AdvaMed, Johnson & Johnson, Smith & Nephew and Stryker voiced support for many of the changes while calling for CMS to rethink certain aspects of its plan.” Related to MedTech, analysts at Cowen explained that they saw “minimal impact from CJR on device prices, noting that CMS is currently focused on the costs of post-acute care. The initiative could evolve in ways that put pressure on the prices of devices but the analysts believe companies can mitigate that threat.”

Ultrasonic Biopsy Needle for Larger Tissue Samples

Each year, doctors perform millions of biopsies, from breast and muscle to liver and lung. For those experiencing a needle biopsy to investigate a bump or enlarged lymph node, for example, the degree of the procedure can vary. In some cases, a fine-needle aspiration is enough. But often doctors need a higher-quality tissue sample for examination, and a core needle biopsy is necessary. In these cases, the larger needle can be quite painful and lead to complications, such as infection or scarring.

But things are changing. MedGadget reported that researchers in Finland have developed an ultrasonically actuated needle that can retrieve higher tissue volume during biopsy without the pain or risk of complications. The device uses a conventional syringe with a fine needle, and then vibrates the needle-tip approximately 30,000 times per second, causing the tissue to behave more fluid-like. Emanuele Perra, a researcher involved in the study, said that “the vibrations are localized to just the tip, so it doesn’t affect any other tissue except a small region around the needle.”

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