The Future of Medical Innovations: New Tools and Programs

By Danélia Botes

February 1, 2024


Medical research is an ongoing and ever evolving field, striving to provide better healthcare solutions for all. Systematic reviews (SRs) are widely acknowledged for their ability to gather high-quality data and support evidence-based decision-making among clinicians. This article explores two major developments in medical research and development. The first development is a new tool that analyses risk-of-bias (ROB) in single-arm trials (SATs). The second development discusses how the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Breakthrough Devices Program (BDP) affects the approval of medical devices and Medicare reimbursement. These developments are crucial, especially when there aren’t enough randomised controlled trials (RCTs) for medical innovations and devices.

The Evolution of Risk-of-Bias Assessment:

Systematic reviews are a crucial part of evidence-based decision-making in healthcare. However, with the advent of new innovative medical technologies and devices, RCTs, the gold standard, are often unavailable in the early stages of the launch or exposure to the healthcare sector. We need to evaluate the use of SATs as an alternative in the absense of RCTs. This evaluation is crucial for their effective inclusion in systematic reviews. This necessitates the development of quality assessment methods for SATs.

Researchers developed a new tool for ROB analysis, with a focus on methodological rigour and protocol adherence. They used this tool to evaluate SATs data and guide decisions on its inclusion in systematic reviews. It holds particular promise for cardiovascular innovation and research, where randomised trials are often not feasible.

The Impact of FDA’s Breakthrough Devices Program:

The FDA’s BDP, designed to expedite market authorisation for innovative devices, has had profound implications for the healthcare industry. With the goal of accelerating access to innovation, the FDA grants Breakthrough designations during the early stages of device development with greater uncertainty in benefit and risk, as long as postmarket evidence is generated.

Since 2020, the Breakthrough designation has led to devices automatically qualifying for supplemental Medicare reimbursement, thanks to Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) waiving the requirement for devices to demonstrate “substantial clinical improvement” for beneficiaries. However, this program has also led to concerns about the quality of evidence used for device approval and the subsequent cost implications for Medicare and healthcare systems.


These developments underscore the need for finding strategies to include innovation into the market at a faster rate. This also shows the impact of innovation even if it comes at a high cost. There is a need for robust tools and policies to ensure the best outcomes for patients. However, it’s also important to remember that careful scrutiny and ongoing refinement is very needed in order to ensure quality and safety for the future of medical innovations. This is to maximise benefits for both the user and provider as well as minimise potential pitfalls.

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