Rising Google Searches For Procedures Suggest Recovering Demand, Analysts Say

May 17, 2022

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Source: Healthcare Dive, by Nick Paul Taylor

Dive Brief:

  • * Searches on Google for 20 common, nonemergent procedures are above pre-pandemic levels, providing another data point that indicates demand is recovering, according to analysts at Needham.
  • * The analysts believe Google Trends data may indicate the level of consumer interest in certain procedures, leading them to track the resource to understand changes over time. U.S. searches for orthopaedic, general surgery and cardiovascular procedures were at 114%, 112% and 101% of their pre-pandemic levels, respectively, in the last analysis.
  • * Earlier analyses suggest the data may bode well for future sales at medical device companies. The data previously have correlated with medtech financial results, with slumps and rises in search numbers in step with drops and increases in revenue.

Dive Insight:

The most recent medtech industry earnings season was characterized by improving results. After struggling with the impact of omicron early in the year, many companies had a recovery in demand as the quarter progressed, leading some orthopaedic businesses to post sales that matched or topped pre-pandemic levels and businesses across the industry to report that the recovery continued into April.

Google search data potentially provides a window into what is coming next. The idea is that the search results show whether consumer interest is falling or rising and, in doing so, offer insights into future sales of medical devices.

The latest analysis found nonemergent procedure searches are up on both the pre-pandemic period, defined as the first seven weeks of 2020, and on a trailing 90-day basis. Over the 90 days through last week, Google searches for the 20 procedures tracked by the Needham analysts rose 8%, with hernia repair having the greatest improvement and nephrectomy faring the worst.

Searches related to orthopaedics, general surgery and cardiovascular procedures gained 12%, 6% and 9%, respectively, over the analyzed period. The figures are similar to the analysis covering the 90 days through the end of April, with orthopaedic searches decelerating by one percentage point and general surgery and cardiovascular gaining two percentage points and one percentage point, respectively.

The rise in orthopaedic searches over the past 90 days suggests the recovery in demand seen during the first three months of the year may have continued into the second quarter. Still, patient demand likely is just one of the forces that will shape results in the second quarter and after, company executives have said.

“We do expect that staffing pressure will continue to be a challenge throughout the year, just not as intense, I think, as what we thought when we started the year,” Zimmer Biomet CEO Bryan Hanson told analysts on a quarterly results conference call.

 

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