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By Justin Swanberg

May 20, 2024



The recent addition of 191 AI-enabled medical devices to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) official list signals a promising trajectory for innovation in patient care. However, while the FDA adds these technologies to its roster, the struggle for insurance coverage persists, creating deeper conversations about their widespread adoption and accessibility.


FDA List Expansion: A Testament to Progress

The FDA’s recent inclusion of AI/ML-enabled devices in its official list underscores the rapid advancement of technology in healthcare. Among these additions, radiology emerges as a focal point (currently 76% of the total list), with a significant portion of devices aimed at enhancing diagnostic accuracy and efficiency in this critical field. Companies like Siemens Medical Solutions, GE, and Philips, alongside innovative startups like Viz.ai and Lunit, contribute to this growing landscape of AI-driven healthcare solutions.

Of the 191 devices recently added, 151 received FDA approval between August 1, 2023, and March 31, 2024, showcasing a steady influx of innovative solutions into the market. Additionally, 40 of the devices added were approved in prior periods which reflects the FDA’s ongoing efforts to refine the evaluation process.


The Coverage Conundrum

Despite the FDA’s efforts to expand the list of approved devices, the journey from regulatory acknowledgment to insurance coverage remains fraught with challenges. While the FDA evaluates the safety and effectiveness of these devices, their integration into clinical practice hinges on reimbursement policies, a domain largely governed by entities like the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

Presently, only a fraction of AI-enabled medical devices enjoy reimbursement, with CMS extending payment for approximately 10 such devices. This stark misalignment between regulatory acknowledgment and coverage underscores a systemic challenge inhibiting the widespread adoption of AI in healthcare.


Advocating for Change

In response to this coverage gap, patient advocacy groups are mobilizing efforts to catalyze policy reform. On May 13, 2024, a coalition of over a dozen patient advocacy organizations issued a compelling appeal to Congress, urging lawmakers to establish a clear pathway for CMS reimbursement of AI devices. By formalizing payment mechanisms in the 2025 Hospital Outpatient Prospective Payment Systems rule, these groups aim to dismantle barriers to access and ensure that patients reap the benefits of AI-driven innovations.

Terry Wilcox, CEO of Patients Rising, encapsulates the urgency of this advocacy, emphasizing the imperative of empowering patients with access to transformative healthcare technologies. Beyond enhancing diagnostic accuracy, AI has the potential to facilitate early intervention and foster positive health outcomes, underscoring the stakes involved in ensuring equitable access to these innovations.


Bridging the Divide

The expansion of the FDA’s official list for AI/ML devices signals a continued shift in healthcare where technology augments clinical decision-making and improves patient outcomes. The gap between regulatory acknowledgment and coverage highlights a pivotal moment in healthcare policy, presenting a valuable opportunity for concerted action to bridge the gap between innovation and accessibility.

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