If the healthcare industry can overcome several long-term challenges to bioelectronic medicine, more will know the term. This rapidly growing field uses targeted electrical signals to diagnose and treat a range of diseases, from arrythmias to treatment-resistant epilepsy and chronic pain. Bioelectronic medicine encompasses not just a narrow category of medical devices, but an entire approach to detecting and treating disease – using electrical pulses and the body’s natural mechanisms as an adjunct or alternative to drugs and medical procedures.
It’s a diverse category, including subfields such as cardiac rhythm management (CRM), electrophysiology, spinal cord stimulation, and vagus nerve stimulation.
Building on a surge of progress in the past decade, the field is rapidly expanding. Technical innovations are making devices smaller and less invasive with companies bringing new applications to market in the next several years, including for peripheral neuropathy, arthritis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart failure, and Type 1 diabetes. According to IDTechEx, bioelectronic medicine represents a $22.6 billion market, projected to triple to more than $60 billion in 2029.
“Millions of patients already depend on bioelectronic medicine, but we are just beginning to envision the many possibilities,” says Dr. Thomas Deering, chief of the Arrhythmia Center, Piedmont Heart Institute, and immediate past president of the Heart Rhythm Society. “As the field develops and matures, it has the potential to address key unmet needs and deliver meaningful benefits for a wide range of patient populations.”
However, a number of long-term challenges remain, which is why field leaders are joining together to address them.
“Bioelectronic medicine has the potential to transform healthcare throughout the coming decades.”
First, they are building collaboration across a highly fragmented landscape of subfields, disciplines, and sectors. Bridging these gaps could advance a cohesive story about the field and how it can improve healthcare – essential to winning over physicians, regulators, payers, policymakers, investors, and patients, many of whom are not even aware of the field.
“Bioelectronic medicine has the potential to transform healthcare throughout the coming decades, much like we’ve seen with the biotech revolution. But the first order of business for those active in the field is to develop a collective vision for how these technologies can improve lives – a vision that other stakeholders can understand and act on,” says Ken Londoner, founder, CEO, and chairman, BioSig Technologies.
The field must also develop high-quality clinical evidence, including mapping nerves to understand how best to use devices, conducting large outcome studies for strong evidence of efficacy, and examining long-term safety and side effects.
Despite the challenges, there are promising signs of progress. The recently launched Alliance for Advancing Bioelectronic Medicine (AABM) aligns leaders on common goals and engages external stakeholders. Researchers and companies are steadily improving devices, developing clinical evidence, and advancing technologies toward market-entry and adoption. Collaboration is growing, with greater connections between those in different subfields.
The group’s shared vision is to deliver innovative technologies that drive real-world benefits for patients and open new opportunities across the healthcare system.