The Role of Providers in Driving Biomechanical Device Innovation

The Role of Providers in Driving Biomechanical Device Innovation

Doug Leach, Managing Director, Biomechanical Innovation, HSS Innovation Institute

The past 30 years have delivered some amazing biomechanical technologies and breakthroughs that have driven the evolution of important musculoskeletal solutions such as hip and knee replacements. Such devices have gone from clunky, poorly performing implant systems with wildly-variable 10-year survivorships of 50-70 percent to today’s sleek anatomic designs and high-performance materials with survivorships of consistently over 95 percent. The driving force behind this evolution has been the orthopedic device industry and their collaborations with clinicians and research institutes around the world.

While the industry has done an excellent job of leading the charge in the past, recent trends indicate an increasing preference on their part to acquire or outsource new device evolutions or innovations as opposed to developing them internally. These companies have been shifting internal focus and resources towards development of enabling technologies such as robotics, navigation, and AR/VR systems and creation of ‘digital’ solutions and platforms.

"Thanks to evolutions in the industry and improvements in technology, providers are now in a unique position to bring the point of innovation closer than it has ever been to the point of care… a situation where everyone benefits"

Despite the success of many of today’s biomechanical devices, there remains plenty of room for improvement in existing systems to address variables such as proprioception, implant fixation and wear, and operational efficiencies, or new designs for as-yet unsolved orthopedic conditions. As such, industry’s shift of focus amplifies the opportunity for new sources of device innovation.

Consider for a moment that a healthcare provider, with the right infrastructure, is particularly well suited to take on this role.

They are on the front lines of delivering care with first-hand knowledge of the entire care process and patient experience, and may be in the best position to more holistically address the clinical and operational innovations necessary to move the development and evolution of these systems forward.

Driving any innovation in a provider setting requires a strategic commitment and focus across the entire organization. This includes having an organization that:

• recognizes innovation as a core value and function, and can strike a healthy balance between the priorities of patient care and research and development

• has cross-functional resources that can work collaboratively and bring their expertise (e.g., legal, financial, technical) to the innovation process

• has a strong culture of creativity and flexibility

• has the relationships with industry partners that enable a mutually beneficial commercial path for new inventions (remember, we’re a hospital, not a manufacturer!)

To share a direct example, when you look at the reasons why we have taken this role on at HSS, it started with our obligation to our own patients to 1) continue the process of improving existing solutions so they meet the needs for how we deliver care today and tomorrow, and 2) tackle the musculoskeletal problems that no one else wants to (or can) because they’re really, really tough. On top of that:

• HSS has been in a thought leader for biomechanical devices for decades, driven by an exclusive focus on orthopedic care and research and a dedicated biomechanical engineering department.

• Discussions with industry partners and clinicians highlighted the continued need for device innovation and the evolving roles that the key industry players were taking on

• Technologies such as computational modeling and 3D printing have enabled us to enhance, extend, and accelerate our development capabilities

• Having an integrated organization allows us to leverage first-hand knowledge of the operational and financial aspects of care delivery, providing new inputs that result in more comprehensive device solutions.

Healthcare providers have always had an obligation to provide the best care to their patients. When it comes to addressing orthopedic issues requiring biomechanical devices, they now have the chance to directly develop or improve the very things that provide those solutions. Thanks to evolutions in the industry and improvements in technology, providers are now in a unique position to bring the point of innovation closer than it has ever been to the point of care… a situation where everyone benefits.

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