How Less Elective Surgeries Are Impacting Medical Device Companies

Every country in the world has felt the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. National lockdowns have had a huge effect on us all at a personal level. And very few industries will come out of the predicted recession unscathed, either. It’s no different for the medical devices industry.

The global medical devices market was worth an estimated $456.9 billion in 2019. The segment has been growing steadily for many years. However, the industry is anticipating a 3.2% decline in 2020. 

So what does the future hold for medical devices companies? Will they weather the Covid-19 storm? Or could this crisis be the death knell for some of the biggest medical device companies in the world? Read on to find out more. 

The Impact of Covid-19 on Medical Device Companies 

Medical device companies are at the forefront of technical and scientific innovation in the healthcare field. Their products help to diagnose and treat patients suffering from a wide range of conditions. 

A large proportion of medical and surgical instruments on the market are used by doctors and other clinical staff during elective procedures. These are operations or other treatments that are planned. These procedures can be life-saving. But they are scheduled in advance rather than being carried out in emergency situations. 

Since the Covid-19 outbreak, many governments across the world have had to free up capacity to treat Covid-19 patients. Intensive Care Units have been full. Clinical staff usually involved in operations have been redeployed to look after Covid-19 patients. In some hospitals, operating rooms have been converted into ICU capacity.

This has resulted in a major reduction in elective procedures carried out. In turn, this has had an impact on sales and growth forecasts for medical device sales companies.  

Will This Be a Temporary Blip?

Many forecasters are indeed viewing this decline in sales for medical device companies to be temporary. The demand has not fundamentally changed. In most areas, there are large backlogs of elective procedures building up. These patients will all need treating eventually, so the market is likely to recover. 

The laparoscopic devices market, for example, is worth an estimated $13.7 billion. Despite the pandemic, this segment is anticipated to grow by a further 1.8% by 2026. 

It may well be that the industry experiences a modest decline, followed by a resumed period of growth. But Covid-19 disruption looks to be set to continue for some time. So how will elective procedures resume? 

The Future of Elective Procedures 

Various factors are in play when it comes to predicting what the future of elective procedures will look like. Different countries will adopt different strategies. 

In the US, some elective surgeries have recommenced, albeit at a lower rate than initially predicted. Local leaders are making decisions at a state or county level, depending on ICU capacity available or the number of patients hospitalized with Covid-19 in the preceding weeks. 

In the UK, some private capacity is being utilized for elective surgery. This protects space within National Health Service hospitals for emergency treatments and any potential increase in Covid-19 patients. 

Predicting Demand for Top Medical Device Companies

The key question for the largest medical device companies will be which procedures will come back online first. This knowledge will help to ensure that the supply chain is ready to meet demand when it re-emerges. 

However, this is not a straightforward equation. Some procedures are considered as less deferrable. This means they are more urgent and likely to further impact the patient’s quality of life or future survival. This includes cancer treatment, trauma and cardiac surgery, dialysis, and treatment for diabetes and stroke. 

It’s likely that these procedures will resume before other less urgent operations. However, the willingness of patients to have surgery is also a factor.

The psychological impact of Covid-19 has been a major issue for many people. This is particularly true for those in the older and more vulnerable categories. This patient group may be extremely fearful of coming into hospital for an operation. This can be the case even if they are suffering from severe symptoms or a life-threatening illness.

Conversely, it may well be that patients awaiting more deferrable procedures have a higher risk appetite. Therefore elective orthopedic surgery for joint replacements or ophthalmological procedures such as cataracts may see a higher uptake. 

What About the Recession?  

The medical devices industry has previously been fairly recession-proof. However, this time around, things might be a little different for a variety of reasons.

High unemployment, reduced income, and increased cost of living could have an impact on the healthcare sector, particularly in countries where there is no universal free healthcare. People may not be able to take time off work to recover from surgery, or they may no longer be able to afford private care or higher insurance premiums. 

For these reasons, it’s likely that there will be a significant downturn in non-urgent procedures, particularly aesthetic treatments. The medical devices industry is moving into a period of uncertain demand. Therefore some degree of agility is likely to be needed. 

The “New Normal” for Medical Device Companies 

While the demand for medical devices for elective procedures has reduced, there has been an enormous increase in demand for ventilators and other supplies required in ICU. Also testing kits for infection and antibodies have been in high demand, along with PPE related items. 

We have already seen considerable innovation in the medical devices industry. This has included developing new technology for testing and other diagnostic procedures related to Covid-19. Some companies have also repurposed their manufacturing lines to meet changes in demand due to the pandemic. 

What Does the Future Hold?

It’s impossible to predict the future in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic. The crisis seems to be likely to continue for some time yet. Many countries are currently experiencing second waves and new lockdowns. 

For medical device companies, it’s clear that flexibility to changes in demand is critical. We have explored the various ways in which suppliers of medical technologies can support frontline healthcare teams to deliver the best in patient care. This applies to Covid-19 patients and also to the many millions of people across the world still waiting for elective procedures. 

Now it’s more important than ever to be well-informed. To keep up-to-date on the latest trends in health and well-being, make sure you check out the rest of the blog!

Kenneth Bennett Atticus

Atticus Bennett: Atticus, a sports nutritionist, provides dietary advice for athletes, tips for muscle recovery, and nutrition plans to support peak performance.