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Amid a maturing interventional cardiology market, intravascular imaging and pressure guidewires remain a relatively strong growth story (see our recent Interventional Cardiology reports for the US and Europe for details). These devices are increasingly relied on for their ability to improve outcomes during PCI, particularly as interventional cardiologists tackle tougher cases than ever.

So how are manufacturers in this market differentiating themselves to drive adoption of their technologies? One common theme we have observed over the past several years is the emergence of dual modality systems; examples include the Philips Healthcare IVUS/FFR system (acquired along with Volcano early in 2015) as well as Boston Scientific’s POLARIS system, which will also support IVUS and FFR (currently the company only markets IVUS catheters, but is developing an FFR product in partnership with ASAHI INTECC).

Of course, market leader St. Jude Medical pioneered this approach, with their combined OCT and FFR rig; the OPTIS system has been commercially available (in Europe) for almost three years now. However, the company this week has adopted a deceptively simple strategy (already used by Philips and Boston Scientific) by launching a mobile OPTIS system.

Compared to the advantages of co-registration of both an imaging modality and FFR, making the system more portable would seem to be a rather trivial improvement. However, manufacturers in this market are banking on the large economic advantage to budget-conscious hospitals in being able to wheel a single piece of expensive capital equipment from cath lab to cath lab.

The moral of the story? Even in a market characterized by a high-tech arms race, manufacturers can’t forget the advantages of simple improvements to usability that can actually translate into large competitive advantages.

Follow Alexander Marsolais on Twitter for more insight on the interventional cardiology and overall cardiovascular device markets.