Looking for a way to hedge against runaway inflation? Here's one you might not have considered yet.

Small-cap stocks tied to nimble businesses that can quickly pivot during times of crisis are especially attractive at the moment. Since Oct. 27, 2021, the small-cap stock tracking Russell 2000 index is up 6.8%. That's more than double the gains produced by the large-cap stock tracking the S&P 500 index over the same time frame.

Just because a business is relatively small doesn't mean its stock is going to rise in a high-inflation environment. For reasons of their own, these three could be huge winners for patient investors who buy now and hold on for the long run.

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Renalytix

There are an estimated 37 million Americans living with chronic kidney disease (CKD) right now. Medicare spends roughly $120 billion treating this population each year and would like to spend a lot less.

Renalytix (NASDAQ:RNLX) and its KidneyIntelX diagnostic service can do a lot to help Medicare reduce its CKD burden and make heaps of money for shareholders in the process. This company's first-in-class diagnostic platform uses artificial intelligence to check blood sample results against health record information and known genetic markers. 

For around $950 per KidneyIntelX result, physicians receive a patient risk score they can use to predict progressive kidney decline. With patient risk scores in hand, healthcare plan sponsors can direct their limited resources to the patients most likely to worsen rapidly without intervention.

Treating disorders that lead to kidney damage isn't cheap, but medicine and frequent checkups are far less expensive than dialysis. Keeping an early stage CKD patient from worsening enough to require a transplant can save Medicare millions over the life of a patient. 

Renalytix is still a small-cap stock because KidneyIntelX sales during the fiscal year ended June 30, 2021, were a paltry $1.5 million. It won't happen overnight, but it's just a matter of time before healthcare plan sponsors across America learn how to save heaps with this company's proprietary kidney monitoring diagnostic.  

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Ocular Therapeutix

Every year, more than 4 million Americans undergo cataract surgery. Ocular Therapeutix (NASDAQ:OCUL) makes Dextenza, a tiny sliver of drug-eluting gel that eye doctors slide into patients' tear ducts following eye surgery. 

The company launched Dextenza shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic slashed procedure volumes. Despite the challenges, the launch is proceeding well. In the third quarter, Dextenza sales more than doubled year over year to $11.9 million.

In October, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) expanded Dextenza's addressable patient population to include patients with allergic conjunctivitis. This expansion from the post-surgical setting could be a very big deal for Ocular Therapeutix. Now, physicians can receive reimbursement for giving Dextenza to patients who come in for a simple office visit. 

In the post-surgery setting, Dextenza sales have only scratched the surface, and sales to people with allergic conjunctivitis or chronic pink eye are just getting started. With two paths to profitability, Ocular Therapeutix has what it takes to deliver big gains in the years to come.

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Nano-X Imaging

With an efficient way to produce x-rays, Nano-X Imaging (NASDAQ:NNOX) could eventually become a leading provider of medical imaging equipment. Computer-aided tomography (CT) scans have come a long way in the 21st century. The source of the x-rays that produce those images, though, still relies on heating a metal filament to 2,000 degrees Celsius. 

Nano-X Imaging's flagship system, the Nanox.ARC, produces x-rays with silicon chips that use modest amounts of electricity. The single source Nanox.ARC has already been approved by the FDA, but the company's first attempt to earn approval for a multi-source device didn't work out.

A fuzzy timeline for resubmitting an application to the FDA for a multi-source device combined with a lack of revenue makes this an ultra-high-risk stock at the moment. Cornering the market for x-ray equipment could be so lucrative, though, that it's probably worth the risk.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.