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  • Alex Hattaway

Can Google searches forecast medical device demand?

Medtech industry analysts at Needham & Co. who are tracking Google search trends for 20 elective medical procedures say interest is near or above pre-pandemic levels.

“We believe that Google Trends data may provide insight into the level of consumer interest in elective procedures,” analysts Mike Matson, David Saxon and Joseph Conway wrote in a note to clients. “Google Trends can track the interest level in a particular topic over time based on the number of searches for that topic.”

It’s yet another forecasting data point for medtech manufacturers to consider as they manage shaky supply chains and uncertain demand due to staffing shortages in hospitals.

The Needham analysts say their calculations show that year-over-year changes in Google Trends are well-correlated with medtech market growth rates.

“To evaluate the correlation between Google Trends and overall medtech market growth, we analyzed quarterly Y/Y growth in interest levels for all 20 elective procedures that we track in the U.S. and worldwide and compared those to medtech market growth rate from our market models,” the analysts wrote. “During the period from 1Q20 to 1Q23, the Y/Y quarterly average change in U.S. interest levels for all 20 elective procedures was highly correlated (correlation coefficient = 0.97) with medtech market growth.”

They compared U.S. procedure searches in the second week of January to the weekly average from the first seven weeks of 2020. They found that procedure searches in the U.S. were at 106% for orthopedic, 109% for general surgery, and 95% for cardiovascular.

Compared to the week before, 13 of the 20 elective procedures showed improvement, led by angioplasty. Heart valve surgery was the biggest loser in search interest.

The analysts also found growing interest in the closing months of 2022, with searches for all 20 elective procedures up 5% year-over-year for the 90-day-period ended Jan. 14 compared to the same time a year prior. Cardiovascular grew by 7% and orthopedics grew by 4%, while general surgery declined 3%.

The analysts are also tracking five aesthetic procedures and reported 113% interest compared to before the pandemic. However, searches were down 8% year-over-year for those procedures for the 90-day-period ended Jan. 14.

The analysts said their findings were of relevance to the publicly traded medtech companies they cover, which includes Alcon, Alphatec, AtriCure, Axonics, Boston Scientific, Cardiovascular Systems, CONMED, Globus Medical, Glaukos, Haemonetics, Hologic, InMode, LivaNova Masimo, Medtronic, Merit Medical, NuVasive, OrthoPediatrics, Paragon 28, Penumbra, RxSight, SI-BONE, Sight Sciences, STERIS, Stryker, Surmodics, Teleflex and Zimmer Biomet.

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