By Lars Thording, VP, Marketing & Public Affairs, Innovative Health
The 29th annual Heart Rhythm Society conference in Boston once again brought together industry players and the clinical community to continue to rapid development in electrophysiology – one of the fastest growing procedure areas in the United States. If you didn’t have the chance to stop by the conference, here is a brief summary:
- The Final Four: Consolidation and large-scale acquisitions have dominated the electrophysiology industry in recent years, so a first impression when walking onto the exhibit floor is the dominance of the four largest industry players, Medtronic, Philips, Biosense Webster (Johnson & Johnson) and Abbott. The other half of the exhibition floor consisted of smaller exhibits where the true innovators of the industry – small start-ups – presented their innovations.
- No Peloton? What was conspicuously absent and somewhat concerning to any healthcare economist was the mid-sized group of companies who, in a healthier industry would be the challengers to the hegemony of the four large players – with new electrophysiology system solutions, groundbreaking new technology or other innovations capable of upsetting the industry. This is generally healthier for the healthcare customer than an oligopoly.
- Impact of Electrophysiology: The perhaps most important observation from the conference, is the enormous importance of progress in electrophysiology of the past few years. Atrial Fibrillation is among the fastest growing disease areas today. Fortunately, the industry as well as clinical science have responded with an impressive rate of innovation and methodology development, to the point where this condition today can be approached curatively through AF Ablation. We owe clinicians and the four large players a debt of gratitude for making this kind of medical progress possible over such a short time-span. The Heart Rhythm Society conference was an opportunity for clinical and technology leaders to continue this dialogue and take it to the next level.
- Incremental Innovation, Not Continued Revolution: There were few signs that the industry has picked up on this opportunity. Clearly, all the major players brought new products to the market with this conference; Abbott introduced the new Advisor HD, a direct competitor to Biosense Webster’s Pentaray catheter; Biosense Webster introduced the Vizigo catheter, which reduces patient radiation exposure; and Baylis launched a steerable sheath to go with its transseptal needles. If anything, this was a year with incremental innovation; no new consoles of ultrasound equipment – and no new innovation that promised to substantially bring the industry forward towards the elusive goal of making electrophysiology more accessible (less expensive technology) and efficacious (higher success rates).
- Single-use device reprocessing: One reprocessing company has taken a novel approach by rapidly getting clearances to reprocess new devices in electrophysiology that haven’t previously been considered reprocessable. They showed a strong commitment to advancing reprocessing in electrophysiology and may be the potion the doctor prescribed, since greater savings on AF Ablation related devices could lead to the reduction in procedure costs that will accelerate penetration. A good example is the recently cleared ViewFlex catheter. Manufacturers whose pipeline may have dried up could see this as an opportunity to drive adoption and ultimately realizing the potential of AF Ablation.
- CABANA study: The research community had been looking forward to the results of this study that would propel AF Ablation forward in terms of procedure prevalence and effectiveness: Early AF Ablation intervention was expected to be demonstrably better than drug treatment. The results were presented by Douglas L. Packer, MD, professor of medicine and consultant in the division of heart rhythm services in the department of cardiovascular medicine, at Mayo Clinic. Contrary to expectations, the study failed to show statistically significant differences in morbidity, the primary end-point.
- PTSD and Atrial Fibrillation: One of the scientific sessions reported detailed results from a significant, first-of-its-kind study showing a link between Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and atrial fibrillation. Researchers have just recently begun to study the impact of significant, ongoing stress and negative emotions on AFib.
- Poster sessions: Among several interesting poster sessions, we found a study showing that smoking marijuana is not associated with increased risk of ventricular fibrillation and ventricular tachycardia following an acute myocardial infarction or heart attack. The research actually showed that marijuana users in general have a lower risk of atrial fibrillation (AFib) and in-hospital mortality. Another point for marijuana in the ongoing debate about is place in healthcare.
- Other Sessions: In addition, a wide variety of sessions were available during the 5-day event to clinical professionals looking to gain both on-the-job knowledge and continuing education credits, including case-based tutorials, debates on clinical issues, clinical procedure how-tos, poster abstracts on the latest scientific research. Special sessions included a focus on the Women of EP, a Young Investigator Awards Competition and an Allied Professionals Orientation among many others.
Lars Thording, Ph.D. has a background in academia, consulting and industry leadership. He has been responsible for the launch of numerous market-disrupting solutions across healthcare, insurance and technology. Originally from Denmark, Lars has taught at universities in Denmark, Ireland and the United States. He currently serves as the VP, Marketing & Public Affairs, for Innovative Health, a medical device reprocessing company specializing in Electrophysiology and Cardiology technology. Lars currently serves on the board of the Association of Medical Device Reprocessors