Mathys CEO Shares His Vision for Joint Replacement Technology

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. Because of that, the trust, knowledge and reliability of everyone at the company 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 if it’s the CEO, they have to think about how they can support the surgeon in his work.”

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 a challenging market, and it will continue to be challenging in the future. We see a more mature industry. The innovation cycles on 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 a groundbreaking new design in the last 10 years. Most of the proven designs are 20+ years old and have great long-term clinical results. On one hand, 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 will definitely add a lot of costs to the healthcare system. This tendency is more pronounced in extremities and knees compared to hips.

The market is moving away from the implant toward services driven by technology and value-based patient care. This transformation will further decrease margins and will enhance the consolidation of the market along the whole supply chain. But we need to understand that we cannot lower the cost of implants forever. 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 compared to the costs 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 the length of the 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, artificial 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 and 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.

Heather Tunstall is an ORTHOWORLD Contributing Editor.