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Medtechs reboot with patients, providers after elective surgeries bottom out

The recovery of elective procedures has come quicker than many in the medical device industry expected. Now, medtechs are adapting as business volumes normalize and COVID-19 continues to spread.

This story is part of a MedTech Dive series examining the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the medtech industry, published six months after the U.S. declared a public health emergency.

Several months back, many medical device makers painted a stark picture in which 50, 60 or 70% of their business dried up in a span of days, with elective surgeries largely shelved as the U.S. grappled with a pandemic few industries.

The troughs in elective procedures seen in April moved to near-normal volumes come June, setting up device companies across the board to beat initial pandemic-era expectations. And the better-than-feared trajectory covers a number of device categories.

Cardiac device specialist Edwards Lifesciences, for example, posted a quarterly sales decline of 15% but still handily beat Wall Street estimates. The healthcare and medtech industries have decried “elective” as a misnomer, noting many are deferring important care for harmful conditions such as, in Edwards' case, aortic valve disease. But potentially less time-sensitive orthopaedic procedures are also making a noteworthy comeback.

“The surprise was just how hips, knees and orthopaedics were quicker to recover in tandem with those more emergent procedures, and in some cases, more rapidly than in other kinds of elective procedures that might even be considered more emergent in nature,” Richard Newitter, a senior research analyst at SVB Leerink covering medical supplies and devices, told MedTech Dive.

“I think a lot of that probably has to do with the fact that these are procedures that are extremely profitable to hospitals.”

Indeed, in recent reports to investors health systems including HCA and Tenet have detailed similarly devastating business impact from the springtime pullback in elective procedures.

Even with the rosier procedure upswings reported from June, in some parts of the country those trends may already be outdated, with new or worsening outbreaks in states including TexasFloridaSouth Carolina and Mississippi, for example, prompting temporary countywide or hospital system restrictions again on elective surgeries. As for how exactly July shook out by comparison: "that's the big question mark," Newitter said.

Despite regional turbulence, many company execs remain optimistic that another nationwide shutdown is highly unlikely. That prediction would place the most dramatic declines in revenue in the past and put the focus on getting back to business as usual, even as prevalence of the virus keeps ticking up.

Author:Maria Rachal


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