Smaller Players See Opportunity In Large Joints
The business of selling hip and knee implants is dominated by five principal players whose grips have been impossible to break as surgeons have become comfortable working with these market leaders. But health care reform, the sagging economy and other external interferences are putting pressures on hospitals to save money wherever they can, and these pressures could create openings for smaller players. These companies are pushing new technologies – such as robotics and customized implants – as well as different business models – including a plan to get rid of the orthopedic sales rep – to grab a larger piece of $11 billion industry in the next few years. But the Big Five are notoriously tough to beat.
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MedPassage Inc. has created an ecommerce site where hospitals and physicians can order the medical implants of their choice directly from a larger variety of manufacturers. By eliminating the sales rep, at least for certain routine types of implants with which surgeons are familiar, medical centers will pay substantially less than the average selling price of the implants.
At AAOS’ 2012 meeting, one attention-grabbing strategy centered on the personalization of large joint implants to match the specific anatomies of patients. Several large joint manufacturers have introduced tools for achieving “custom fits” for new joints, knees in particular. Advances in robotics and customized manufacturing are enabling smaller companies to take personalization to the next step. MAKO featured its MAKOplasty Total Hip Arthroplasty (MAKOplasty THA), an advancement of its partial knee MAKOplasty procedure. In another approach toward customizing knee surgeries, ConforMIS manufactures a line of knee implants that are custom made for each individual patient.
China Kanghui has emerged as one of the leaders in China’s orthopedics industry, building a business first on trauma and, more recently, spine. Now, with a pending move into reconstruction, the company is looking to other emerging markets, and eventually the US and Europe.