As we head into the Seventh International Symposium on Focused Ultrasound—the first year in which this gathering will be a virtual meeting—there is the opportunity to reflect on experiences from a year unlike any other. While the physical and emotional impact of the coronavirus has been incomprehensible, this pandemic has also revealed the remarkable ability of the healthcare profession to rise above any challenge. Hospitals have expanded their capacity into uncharted territory and healthcare workers have maintained round-the-clock hours to treat an exponential influx of patients.
In the focused ultrasound community, we have also surmounted obstacles as we’ve adapted to the new environment and work to ensure that patients continue to be treated with focused ultrasound. Tremor treatment may be an elective procedure, but many patients have been waiting years, if not decades for relief.
“Focused ultrasound can help people living with debilitating hand tremor from essential tremor or Parkinson’s Disease return to independent, productive lives,” said Maurice R. Ferré, MD, CEO of global medical technology innovator, INSIGHTEC. “Our efforts are dedicated to ensuring patients don’t have to put their lives on hold, and the progress we have achieved in this unpredictable year has been remarkable.”
Both INSIGHTEC and The Focused Ultrasound Foundation have made huge strides in progressing focused ultrasound treatment as a treatment option for those suffering from tremor. Global treatment milestones achieved this year are a validation of these efforts, and a testament to the transformation of patient care through incisionless surgery.
Penn Medicine, Chi Health St. Mary, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and University of Navarra all surpassed their 100th commercial focused ultrasound treatment, while Severance Hospital in Seoul and SoniModul in Switzerland exceeded 200 treatments. These prominent health systems have established successful focused ultrasound programs, attracting patients near and far, and spurring the adoption of this technology across the globe.
The 15th treatment center in Japan began treating patients, while in Russia, Intelligent Neurosurgery Clinic announced its treatment of a tremor-dominant Parkinson’s patient—the first in the country—evidence of the increasing attention focused ultrasound is receiving on an international scale. All of these successes have contributed to changing the lives of a total of 3,500 essential tremor and tremor-dominant Parkinson’s patients.
This achievement would not be possible without the new health systems that have embraced focused ultrasound. In the United States, access to focused ultrasound treatment for patients living in both urban and rural areas has increased with the establishment of treatment centers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, IL; Johnston-Willis Hospital in Richmond, VA; Novant Health in the Carolinas; Regional One Health in Memphis, TN and Miami Neuroscience Institute part of Baptist Health South Florida in Miami, FL. The focused ultrasound footprint is also expanding globally, with the addition of Red de Salud UC CHRISTUS in Chile—the first treatment center in Latin America.
“The Focused Ultrasound Foundation is committed to accelerating the development and adoption of this revolutionary, incisionless therapeutic technology that will improve outcomes and decrease cost of care,” said Neal F. Kassell, MD, founder and chairman of the Focused Ultrasound Foundation. “Through a variety of programs, including organizing and funding research, increasing awareness, and facilitating commercialization, the Foundation is shortening the time from laboratory research to widespread utilization as a standard of care.”
Reimbursement is an equally important aspect of ensuring that treatment is available to those who need it most. Focused ultrasound treatment of medication-refractor essential tremor is now a Medicare covered benefit across all 50 states, an achievement that makes incisionless treatment more of a possibility for millions of Americans.
The coming year will doubtlessly present uncertainty as the medical community continues to cope with the evolving situation of the pandemic. However, with the number of medical centers adopting our technology nearly 70 around the globe, we are certain that focused ultrasound will continue to help transform – both patients’ lives, and the medical facilities that work every day to advance focused ultrasound as the standard of care in tremor treatment. The International Symposium on Focused Ultrasound presents an opportunity to share the latest translational and clinical advances in focused ultrasound, setting the stage for the coming year, where our collaboration will continue to press boundaries and define new milestones.
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