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Heart Rhythm 2021 in review: The hunt for innovation amid decreased participation

by Gus Iversen, Editor in Chief | August 11, 2021

However, there is a small revolution brewing in the electrophysiology space, and this took significant life at the HRS conference: pulsed field ablation (PFA), a new ablation modality that promises to reduce procedure time, enhance ablation efficiency and improve safety for patients. Without going into too much detail, this modality represents true and significant innovation based on energy source and deployment, and I am looking forward to seeing the first solutions finding their way to the electrophysiology lab.

Literally every electrophysiology manufacturer of any significance (led by Boston Scientific, Biosense Webster and Medtronic) is pursuing this new modality in a race to bring the first solutions to market and set the standards for treatment. However, size doesn’t always matter, and we saw electrophysiologists and other participants literally lining up to talk with and see demonstrations by Galaxy, a pulsed field ablation technology company, while activity was much less at the large exhibits. Overall, Galaxy and its technology show great promise and could play a major role in the electrophysiology industry of the future.

Technology innovation and cost per procedure
Acutus Medical also has a pulsed field ablation program and, while relatively new to the electrophysiology world, Acutus Medical again presented itself as a serious contender to business as usual: The company’s mapping technology is a small revolution in itself, and the company is building a complete Atrial Fibrillation solution that, objectively speaking, is probably the best in the industry. In addition, Acutus’ approach to electrophysiology is a new and refreshing one: The company is not just focused on producing better technology. It also engages the subject of how better technology can be made available to more patients through solutions that are focused on managing cost per procedure.

Lars Thording
You would think that any industrialist would have to discuss cost impact to have any play with hospitals and electrophysiology labs, but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the topic of cost rarely comes up at Heart Rhythm Society. (Single-use device reprocessing, which reduces the cost per electrophysiology procedure by $1,000 to $3,000, was an exception at this year’s conference.) The conference, just like the industry, looks at innovation from a technology perspective rather from a value perspective. This means new technologies are launched at a rapid pace, but it also means that hospitals and electrophysiology labs are hit with an endless increase in cost per procedure. This is unsustainable from a cost perspective — and therefore also from a patient care perspective: If electrophysiology labs cannot be profitable, fewer patients will have access to the service. I hope to hear more discussion of this fact at future HRS events.

About the author: Lars Thording is the VP of marketing & public affairs at Innovative Health LLC.
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