- Google searches for 20 elective medical procedures performed in the U.S. exceeded pre-COVID numbers in the week ended Oct. 28, reaching 112% of levels seen before the pandemic, according to analysts at Needham, who track the data as a gauge of consumer interest.
- Medical device companies are closely watching elective surgery trends to determine if patients who delayed care during the public health emergency will continue to drive demand for procedures as they catch up on appointments.
- Searches for the 20 medical procedures that Needham follows climbed 1% over the 90 days ended Oct. 28, from the same period a year ago, the analysts said.
Medtech companies have benefited from elevated procedure volumes in recent quarters as providers work through a backlog of cases left over from when hospitals postponed non-emergency care to keep beds open for COVID-19 patients.
But it is unclear how long the boost will last.
On Intuitive Surgical’s third-quarter earnings call, executives said uncertainty about the duration of pent-up demand is factored into the company’s procedure growth forecast range for 2023. The surgical robot maker’s U.S. procedure growth of 17% in the latest quarter reflected a smaller benefit from patient backlogs than in the first half of the year, the company said.
Heart valve specialist Edwards Lifesciences continues to work “to get patients off the sidelines” following the “rockiness” of the COVID period, Larry Wood, group president of transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) and surgical structural heart, said on the company’s third-quarter call. Edwards has posted three straight quarters of double-digit sales growth, Wood noted, after an analyst pointed out that TAVR procedures were growing faster before the pandemic.
Needham’s analysis shows Google searches for 20 U.S. elective procedures have been trending upward since the start of the pandemic, peaking this spring above 115% of pre-COVID levels. After a pullback in the third quarter, the figure climbed to 112% of pre-pandemic levels in the latest week.
Searches in the U.S. for orthopedic procedures in the week ended Oct. 28 were at 114% of pre-COVID levels, general surgery searches were at 103%, and cardiovascular procedure searches were at 107%, Needham found.