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Bioelectronics are already shaking up health care. Here's what you need to know.

February 2, 2018

    You may have already heard about bioelectronics and electroceuticals, a hot topic in the biotech industry right now. This field of medicine uses small, implantable medical devices to either stimulate or block nerve function inside the patient's body in order to modulate cell or organ activity.

    Although seemingly straight from a sci-fi movie, bioelectronics are already being used to treat many chronic conditions, as well as motor and nervous system disorders—and application of the technology is only growing, making this field a topic planners should get familiar with.

    Neurostimulation is one growing type of bioelectronic system. As you will find in our 2018 Neuroscience Market Trends webconference this week (click here to register), neurostimulation is used principally for treating chronic pain, epilepsy, sleep apnea, and affective disorders. Today it is growing more popular among physicians engaged in research, particularly neurologists, psychiatrists, orthopedists, physiatrists, and endocrinologists. We attribute this to three main factors:

    1. Improved neuroimaging and a better understanding of how electrical signals travel through the brain have enhanced the technology itself;
    2. Many neurostimulation devices have recently received expanded indications and ongoing clinical trials are exploring its additional therapeutic properties; and
    3. The opioid epidemic is driving physicians and patients to search for alternative approaches to pain management.

    Bioelectronics have the potential to transform treatment for a wide range of conditions, both in research and in everyday treatment. To help you understand what impact neurostimulation systems might have on your hospital, we've answered two big questions planners should be asking:

    Question 1: Which patients are eligible for neurostimulation, and who should I try to attract for these services in the future?

    • Eligibility laws and preauthorization requirements vary by neurostimulation device and the disease that is being treated. Patients are often required to meet several conditions to qualify for insurance coverage for neurostimulation.
    • To understand the market for this service in your region, evaluate demand among these target consumers: those with chronic pain, Parkinson's, epilepsy, sleep apnea, migraine headache, affective disorders, Alzheimer's, and obesity.
    • Build relationships with and educate PCPs to garner referrals for these specific patient groups.

    Question 2: How can I expect neurostimulation to impact my bottom line?

    • FDA-approved neurostimulation procedures are typically profitable, especially surgical implants. However, reimbursement is limited for experimental neurostimulation applications, which is why self-pay patients are particularly important to maintain a profit when using this technology outside research settings. For example, vagus nerve stimulation is covered by both Medicare and private insurers for epilepsy, but it is rarely covered by any insurance for depression, one of the device's experimental applications.
    • Profitability on neurostimulation procedures is largely a function of well-managed device selection, procedure staging, and care setting.
    • Neurostimulation now has the potential to aid patients with a wide range of conditions. Attracting patients and bringing them into the health system early on in their disease state, particularly patients with chronic or degenerative disorders, are likely to lead to a significant halo effect.

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