Turning a Pandemic into Progress

Turning a Pandemic into Progress

By Bob Vitoux, President, CEO, OrthoWorx.

It hasn’t been without challenge, but battling through the COVID-19 pandemic has clearly made our orthopedic industry, and so many others, stronger and even helped advance the way we think and operate in ways that may have taken decades to get there without it. In many cases it’s been painstaking (pun intended), especially when it comes to the patients served, as they’re the ones living with the joint pain that comes from osteoarthritis. Yet there are also many positive developments that occurred during the pandemic for the $50+ billion global orthopedic industry. Orthopedic patients, their surgeons, and so many others involved, including manufacturers, are the beneficiaries from these advancements.

For many years and prior to the outbreak of COVID-19 in early 2020, the predominance of customary hip, knee, and shoulder orthopedic procedures were still being done globally in the traditional hospital setting. Although there had been movement underway to move certain patients to the newer ambulatory surgery centers (ASC’s), because of several factors, some being financial and the majority being more operational, this transition was not occurring at the rate we’ve seen over the past few years. Because of the multitude of limitations at hospitals during the outbreak of COVID-19, orthopedic surgeons, their teams, and suppliers, were challenged to find new and better ways to continue serving patients still in pain and in need of treatment.

While clearly not a small feat, advances in data analytics contributing to the improvements in rapid design and prototyping, progress being made in pre-operative planning procedures, developments in additive and advanced manufacturing techniques, and simply the need for speed to serve the patients in pain sidelined due to the hospital constraints, created the “perfect storm” for innovation.

The orthopedic industry, which had long benefitted from the close relationships that exist between the designing surgeons and the manufacturer, could now show how this connection was even more valuable than ever. With a goal of rapid innovation and streamlining all that’s required for these pain-reducing and often pain-eliminating procedures, the goal was to allow these techniques to be done more easily and efficiently in the ASC environment.

It was this perfect storm that resulted in the manufacturers, many of whom have their base in Warsaw, Indiana, focusing on simplifying the procedure and their product offering in a manner that would support the move to the ASC environment, In doing so, however, it was critical not to take shortcuts that could compromise the extraordinarily favorable clinical outcomes the orthopedic industry and its patients have experienced for years. Like other industry-driven communities, Warsaw, part of Kosciusko County in Northeast Indiana and better known as the Orthopedic Capital of the World® and the epicenter for over half of the world’s mega-billion-dollar orthopedic industry companies, would need to challenge its historical norms for designing, manufacturing, and suppling orthopedic products.

With a long heritage of helping patients restore their joy of mobility and an active lifestyle, dating back to 1895 when Revra DePuy commenced the first orthopedic business focused on producing fitted splints to properly heal broken limbs, innovation and skilled artisan craftsmanship have long been the norms for this community. Nevertheless, the storm hasn’t been without trials, as the same supply issues, labor shortages, and escalation in costs, also plaguing so many other industries, have all been on top of the need of transitioning to the ASC environment and continuing to serve the traditional hospital setting.

With a mindset of “never letting a good crisis or opportunity go to waste”, tremendous progress has been made over the past few years and is ongoing. This progress includes not only enhancing traditional product offerings and surgical techniques for serving the ASC’s but also includes expanding the range of joints (namely extremities) being replaced/repaired, harnessing the use of technology for advances in robotic surgery, and developing new surgical procedures that both reduce the invasiveness of the surgery and time for recovery, all while even better accommodating the younger patient. Some may have thought the headwinds faced through COVID-19 would result in setbacks for the Orthopedic Capital of the World®, but like so many things, it’s a matter of perspective and it would seem those serving the orthopedic industry might beg to differ.

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Category Features, Last Word