Rise in Google Searches for Some Procedures Suggests Recovering Demand, Analysts Say

Dive summary:

  • Google searches for 20 common and non-emerging procedures are above pre-pandemic levels, providing another data point that indicates demand is picking up, Needham analysts say.
  • Analysts believe Google Trends data can indicate consumers’ level of interest in certain procedures, leading them to follow the resource to understand changes over time. U.S. searches for orthopedic, general surgery and cardiovascular procedures were 114%, 112% and 101% of their pre-pandemic levels, respectively, in the latest analysis.
  • Previous analyzes suggest the data could bode well for future sales for medical device companies. The data was previously correlated with the financial results of medical technology, with declines and increases in the number of searches in line with declines and increases in revenue.

Overview of the dive:

The most recent earnings season for the medical technology industry has been characterized by improving earnings. After struggling with the impact of the omicron earlier in the year, many businesses experienced a recovery in demand as the quarter progressed, leading some orthopedic companies to after-sales that have matched or exceeded pre-pandemic levels and companies across the industry to signal that the recovery continued until April.

Google search data potentially provides a window into what’s next. The idea is that the search results show whether consumer interest is decreasing or increasing and, in doing so, offer insight into future sales of medical devices.

The latest analysis found that searches for elective procedures are up on both the pre-pandemic period, defined as the first seven weeks of 2020, and on a 90-day basis. In the 90 days to last week, Google searches for the 20 procedures followed by analysts at Needham rose 8%, with hernia repair having the biggest improvement and nephrectomy the worst.

Searches related to orthopedics, general surgery and cardiovascular procedures increased by 12%, 6% and 9%, respectively, during the period analyzed. The figures are similar to the analysis covering the 90 days to the end of April, with orthopedic searches slowing by one percentage point and general and cardiovascular surgery gaining two percentage points and one percentage point respectively.

The increase in orthopedic searches over the past 90 days suggests that the recovery in demand seen in the first three months of the year may have continued into the second quarter. Still, patient demand is likely only one of the forces shaping results in the second quarter and beyond, company executives said.

“We expect staff pressure to continue to be a challenge throughout the year, but not as intense, I think, as we thought when we started the year,” Bryan Hanson, CEO of Zimmer Biomet. to analysts during a quarterly earnings conference call.

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