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2 June 2010

Surgical and medtech experts say reimbursement system is stunting minimally invasive surgery (MIS) market growth

New Cambridge Consultants report looks at the future of the $15 billion MIS market and points out flaws in current system that discourages innovation

Two decades after the first successful minimally invasive surgery (MIS), today’s techniques and technologies are being held back from providing better patient care and more efficient procedures, according to a report issued today by Cambridge Consultants. The report analyzes the barriers and opportunities for the future growth of the $15 billion global MIS market collected through input from surgical industry leaders that participated in a recent working session in Boston, MA, which featured pre-eminent representatives with far-reaching backgrounds including imaging and navigation, surgical robotics, regulatory affairs, laparoscopy and endoscopy.

As productivity growth for the hospital industry stagnates at a rate less than half of the general economy*, today’s reimbursement coding system is the main culprit limiting radical growth in MIS. The current coding system, which generally refers to the cost, payment and insurance infrastructure supporting patient care, dictates that devices and procedures in clinical trials must be quick and profitable first, with efficacy and patient care playing secondary roles. In addition, despite the need to develop alternatives that can both lower the risk of infection and speed up a patient’s recovery time, the current system still favors the status quo rather than a more in-depth approach that might produce better outcomes.

“The existing reimbursement coding system is stifling true leapfrog innovation,” said Andrew Diston, Head of Global Medical Technology Practice, Cambridge Consultants. “Even in today’s challenging economy, it is the long-term, sometimes higher-capital investments that will in the end bring about the improvements that can radically reduce MIS costs and improve patient outcomes in the process. Device makers want codes that reward innovation and patient care rather than short, dispensable income. This reimbursement issue has been hidden under the layers as an afterthought for too long.”

The report, ‘Navigating Surgical Options: the future of minimally invasive surgery’ examines market dynamics and drivers for industry growth along with new surgical and technological developments that will advance the MIS market. Including viewpoints from GE Healthcare, Philips Healthcare, Ethicon Endo-Surgery, Covidien, Stryker Instruments, Medtronic, Intuitive Surgical, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the report states that reimbursement changes along with the convergence of a more informed patient and advances in surgical technologies will ultimately create better clinical outcomes with a lower risk to the patient.

In addition, the report finds that the growing voice of the ‘informed patient’ is driving popularity away from traditional curative procedures. Preventative procedures are in turn being driven by this new consumer demand. As an enabler of this new health paradigm of earlier intervention and prevention, MIS can offer lower risk and lower cost procedures as many patients are now requesting their own procedures and access to information earlier in the life of a disease, when healthcare generally costs less. The big winners in MIS will be those groups that can embrace this growing consumer market and the new sales channels that have emerged.

The report concludes that technology integration is equally important to the future of the industry. The study cites GE Healthcare’s Vscan handheld ultrasound scanner as an example of a transformative technology. Forever changing the way ultrasound is used in patient care, the Vscan demonstrates the value of technology transfer and the potential to shift use from the hospital to more convenient locations like the home. Meanwhile, developing devices and simulators that better integrate imaging and instrumentation – and ultimately real-time diagnostics and therapy – can create more effective surgical procedures. Widespread implementation of ‘smart’ surgical tools will create more efficient and cost-effective surgeries and clinical trials, improving feedback loops for patients and providers, and ultimately, the entire healthcare system.

Notes to editors

Cambridge Consultants develops breakthrough products, creates and licenses intellectual property, and provides business consultancy in technology critical issues for clients worldwide. For more than 50 years, the company has been helping its clients turn business opportunities into commercial successes, whether they are launching first-to-market products, entering new markets or expanding existing markets through the introduction of new technologies. With a team of more than 400 staff, including engineers, scientists, mathematicians and designers, in offices in Cambridge (UK), Boston (USA) and Singapore, Cambridge Consultants offers solutions across a diverse range of industries including medical technology, industrial and consumer products, digital health, energy and wireless communications.


Cambridge Consultants is part of Altran, a global leader in innovation and high-tech engineering consulting which supports companies in the creation and development of their new products and services. With a staff of almost 21,000 employees in more than 20 countries, the Group generated revenues of €1,633m in 2013. For more information visit: www.altran.com

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