Benjamin Reinmann, M.D., Chief Executive Officer of Mathys, understands that the joint replacement market is a technology- and material science-driven industry, but he sees it at a higher level than that. At its very core, he says, it’s really a people business. That perspective can shift how professionals train for and approach their work.
An implant may stay within a patient for 20, 30 or more years, Dr. Reinmann said. Because of that, the trust, knowledge and reliability of everyone at the implant company that the surgeon works with plays a major role in product and company success.
“At the end of the day, you have to convince [the surgeon] and he has to trust you and believe in you,” Dr. Reinmann said. “That’s extremely important, because the surgeon stands in front of the patient and is responsible. All of the people in the company, it doesn’t matter if it’s the machine operator on the shop floor or it’s the CEO, always have to think about how they can support the surgeon in his work.”
Dr. Reinmann is a medical doctor by training, having worked as a physician in a children’s hospital in Switzerland before holding leadership roles in engineering, operations and manufacturing. As a physician, he learned one of his greatest lessons in his career: first and foremost, listen to people.
This lesson helped in his other roles on his path to CEO of Mathys, a Switzerland-headquartered joint replacement and sports medicine company.
“All of these different roles taught me that it’s important to always have a clear vision and an idea where you want to go with your team, even if you don’t have the same technical background or the same deep knowledge of their daily work,” he said. “Furthermore, interdisciplinary thinking is extremely important. People know pretty well what they must do in their daily business. To bring them together and to show them that working in interdisciplinary teams brings more robust results was always key.”
We asked Dr. Reinmann to share his insight into the joint replacement market.
How would you describe the joint replacement market today?
Dr. Reinmann: It is and will be in the future an even more challenging market. Basically, it is in line with the whole medtech industry. We see a more mature industry. Innovation cycles on the implants are getting longer, more and more products are going in the direction of consumables, prices matter and regulations are increasing, especially in Europe.
In hips, for example, we have not seen any groundbreaking new design in the last 10 years that has changed or will change the orthopedic industry. Most of the proven designs are 20+ years old and have great long-term clinical results. On one side, services around the implant are gaining popularity predominantly enhanced by digitalization; on the other hand, solutions that will decrease the treatment costs will be more and more important.
When we take a closer look at software, we observe many new technologies that support the orthopedic surgeon where the clinical benefit for the patient is not always obvious, but for sure will add a lot of costs to the healthcare system. This tendency is more pronounced in extremities and knees compared to the hip.
So, the market is moving away from the implant toward services driven by technology and keeping value-based patient care on the radar. This transformation will further decrease margins and enhance consolidation in the market along the whole supply chain. However, we need to understand that we cannot lower the cost of the implants forever, as otherwise no innovation will occur, and no services will be offered in support of the product—especially when we keep in mind that the cost of orthopedic devices vs. those of the whole healthcare sector is only a small percentage.
What do you see as the greatest opportunities in joint replacement?
Dr. Reinmann: Personalized treatment. Patients like it. That does not mean they need a customized implant, which we believe is too expensive. In the last 30 years, we have seen standardized designs that have achieved great results for all patient anatomies and bone morphologies. Why should a customized implant change that trend?
Supporting the orthopedic surgeon in his interaction with the patient before and after the surgery will gain importance. The increasing availability of technology to monitor the patient and learn more about his habits will help the surgeon manage expectations and address patients’ needs without using more time. After surgery, close monitoring of the patient within their familiar surroundings will help to optimize rehabilitation and reduce length of hospital stay and costs. All this available data will further allow more insights and will influence the design of the implants or services. In other words, the smart use of big data will have a huge impact.
The new possibilities resulting from enhanced, augmented or virtual reality will certainly change the work of the orthopedic surgeon dramatically. Leaving the surgeon still in full control of what he is doing, he will be supported in implementing his planned surgery with much higher accuracy without limiting the speed of the intervention. Smart technology is only one big driver of change; there will also be opportunities arising from new materials or innovations coming from other industries that the orthopedic market will be able to utilize. I’m sure that the trend toward metal-free implants (e.g. plastics, ceramics) will continue.
How does Mathys plan to support surgeons with new technology and services?
Dr. Reinmann: Today, we offer planning solutions for our implants, e.g. shoulder surgery. Our strategical intent, however, covers augmented reality support for the surgeon during surgery but also to prepare the patient before and after surgery. That requires optimizing the patient journey. We are currently assessing the possibilities with different partners in order to offer one full solution.
What advice would you offer a young person entering the ranks of an orthopedic company?
Dr. Reinmann: Talk to surgeons. Talk to O.R. nurses and the other members of the theater team. Then attend several orthopedic surgeries. That will help you to understand the needs of these people. This will help you find better solutions in your daily work to support the customer.
Heather Tunstall is an ORTHOWORLD Contributing Editor.