The exhibitor hall at the 29th annual ASMBS meeting this year represented a wide gamut of weight loss surgery vendors—from those for medical device companies to nutrition supplement providers. Below, we present our main observations.
Demand for bariatric program development consulting, marketing firms on the rise
The number of consulting and marketing services available for bariatrics was greater in number this year than in years past with over a dozen firms present. These vendors offered services ranging from bariatric practice revenue cycle management to online marketing and advertising for bariatric programs.
The growth of this group’s presence on the vendor floor suggests that demand for programmatic development assistance is likewise on the rise, a trend that is not entirely surprising given the increasingly crowded bariatric center marketplace. At last count, there are over 800 bariatric centers that are currently accredited by either ASMBS or ACS, a tremendous spike from ten—even five—years ago. As competition grows and programs mature, more stakeholders are seeking outside help with the business side of bariatric center management in order to differentiate their programs and elevate their services to the next level of efficiency and quality.
Clinical techs continue to push the minimally invasive envelope
Meanwhile, clinical technology booths were, as in past ASMBS conferences, heavily focused on gastric bypass and gastric banding procedures. A common theme behind all of these clinical technology vendors was decreased invasiveness: smaller ports, fewer ports (i.e. single incision surgery), or no ports (i.e. Enteromedics’ subcutaneous gastric pacemaker).
Robotics, in particular, appears to be slowly making some headway in bariatric surgery. Although robotics is not used as often for weight loss surgery as it is for prostatectomy and hysterectomy, anecdotal evidence and a paper presented at ASMBS by Dr. Erik Wilson of the University of Texas Health Science Center, indicate that on-the-ground enthusiasm and clinical evidence supporting da Vinci gastric bypass surgery is growing.
Long on-hold and under review, gastric stimulators may be soon coming to market
The highly-watched gastric electrical stimulator (GES) technology space may be bringing a number of devices to the US market in the near future. Last year, IntraPace’s abiliti announced its first commercial patients and received expanded CE Mark approval in Europe. Enteromedics’ VBLOC therapy system, on the other hand, will be completing its primary results for its pivotal ReCharge trial by December 2012 and is expected to come to the US market in 2014. Gastric pacemakers are attractive because they would present a reversible, non-surgical weight loss surgery alternative that is even less invasive than gastric banding. Although gastric pacemakers can serve as stand-alone therapies, conversations on-the-ground suggest that there is interest in exploring the use of GES as a complement rather than just as a substitution for traditional operations like gastric bypass.
Be sure to stay tuned to the Pipeline for additional ASMBS coverage including updates on gastric sleeve and COE requirements.