In the noisy environment surrounding pandemic-driven market data, sorting out financially stressed hospitals’ appetite for investing in expensive technologies is tough.
Clearly, hospital operating margins are down, even as their costs rise, and surveys indicate the majority are putting off capex spending for the foreseeable future (see Figure 1; and “As Hospitals Recover, What is Their Appetite for Device Innovation?,” MedTech Strategist, August 20, 2020.)
But how that impacts individual manufacturers and new product launches is complicated and varies depending on type of innovation, as well as the individual characteristics of hospitals and companies. Smaller, community hospitals, inevitably are pulling back more than well-endowed academic medical centers and large healthcare systems, for example. The same is true of smaller versus larger companies with broad portfolios. Nowhere has the situation been murkier than in surgical robotics, a field that has drawn much attention and investment dollars in recent years and was accelerating rapidly before COVID-19 hit last March.
While sales and placements were initially down at the start of the pandemic in the US, industry’s worries about a prolonged effect seem to be unwarranted. In third-quarter earnings calls, the largest surgical robotics companies reported better-than-expected placements.
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