While I certainly got value from the golf tips provided to me by president of Stryker’s Joint Replacement Division, Bill Huffnagle, and also enjoyed gazing at the ring of Superbowl champion and NFL Hall of Famer, Jerome Bettis, I made sure to get in some time with each of them to address a more orthopedic-focused agenda. Following are the responses they provided to my questions on Stryker’s efforts to address joint pain, how the company is reacting to current industry trends, and how Bettis is dealing with his own issues with joint pain and why he became Stryker’s latest company spokesperson.
Sean Fenske: Why is Stryker interested in addressing joint pain earlier in a patient’s treatment plan?
Bill Huffnagle: The health and well being of patients is Stryker’s top priority, and we want to help joint pain sufferers get back to doing the things they love. Knee and hip pain, which often stems from osteoarthritis, doesn’t happen overnight. Many patients who have had a knee or hip replacement share a common story—they struggled with severe joint pain for months, even years, before deciding to talk with an orthopedic surgeon about their options.
Stryker launched a partnership with the PGA Tour in 2014 to help educate people about joint health, activating the Stryker Mobility Zone, our premiere on-site health destination, at tournaments around the nation. We renewed this partnership earlier this year and will continue to demonstrate our commitment to helping people make the first move and speak with a doctor.
Fenske: Given that focus, what technologies is Stryker exploring to address hip and knee health concerns?
Huffnagle: The foundation of Stryker’s success is built on innovation. We continue to evolve our product line, including identifying and producing the next generation of medical technology solutions. One example is Stryker’s Mako Robotic-Arm Assisted Total Knee application, which was approved by the FDA in August 2015. We’ve spent the last year working with a team of surgeons to optimize the clinical experience and will be rolling out the application nationwide early next year. With this technology, surgeons can operate with high precision, enabling them to accurately predict and replicate a knee replacement procedure again and again.
Another business unit within the company, Stryker’s Performance Solutions, works closely with hospitals and healthcare providers to improve quality outcomes, patient satisfaction, and profitability in orthopedics. We do this through the development of programs and digital tools that help enhance the overall care delivery and experience for patients undergoing joint replacement surgery. In April, we launched JointCOACH, a web-based communication platform that enables joint replacement patients to communicate with their hospital care team by computer or smart phone from the time a surgery is scheduled until at least 90 days after discharge from the hospital. Pre-op preparation, clinical protocols, information about medications and pain control, recovery and rehabilitation activities, and other questionnaires are delivered to patients at key intervals, ensuring they are engaged in their care plan and experiencing a successful recovery.
Fenske: Getting the patient more involved in their own care is a great lead into my next question. How is Stryker addressing the trend of personalized medicine in the orthopedic space?
Huffnagle: Stryker continues to explore and identify solutions to better meet the evolving needs of joint replacement patients. At this time, we are modernizing the knee and hip replacement experience through Stryker’s Mako robotic-arm assisted surgery. As part of this application, a CT scan of the joint is taken and analyzed by specialized software that enables the surgeon to accurately plan for the implant size, orientation, and alignment preoperatively. The surgeon can then make real-time intra-operative adjustments to allow for more correct knee kinematics and soft-tissue balance prior to resection. Stryker’s Mako technology has made a measurable impact in both partial knee and hip replacement surgeries, resulting in low revision rates and high patient satisfaction, and we are looking forward to changing the way total knee replacements are performed in the next year.
Fenske: Your Mako system seems to reflect a growing trend toward robotic-assisted technology being utilized in the orthopedic space. Why is this technology becoming so prominent?
Huffnagle: We believe the integration of robotic-arm assisted technology has the power to transform joint replacement surgery and the patient experience by enhancing accuracy and predictability. Our Mako application is currently available for total hip and partial knee replacement procedures and will be available nationwide for total knee replacements early next year.
Fenske: Moving on to another trend in orthopedics, is Stryker looking to additive manufacturing technologies for its implant development and manufacturing?
Huffnagle: We have been investing in additive manufacturing research and technology advancements for over 10 years. The knowledge that we have gained during this time has enabled us to increase our speed of production while limiting our product waste. Our additive manufacturing focus is on innovative new products that would not be possible with traditional manufacturing methods.
Fenske: Let’s speak a bit on why most of us are here today—your announcement of Jerome Bettis as Stryker’s latest spokesperson. What makes him a good spokesperson for your current efforts?
Huffnagle: As an avid golfer and someone who struggles with joint pain, Jerome Bettis aligns perfectly with our PGA Tour program and has been a great asset on the Stryker team. Jerome’s personal experience with joint pain resonates with golf fans, on and off the course, and while he doesn’t have a joint replacement yet, he reinforces the importance of starting a conversation with a doctor about options that are available to help people return to an active lifestyle.
Fenske: Thanks for taking time to speak with ODT and addressing my questions about your position with Stryker and its efforts to combat joint pain. What makes Stryker an attractive company for you to work with?
Jerome Bettis: Stryker’s primary mission is to make healthcare better and that is something that immediately attracted me to the company. Education is something that I feel really passionately about—you can always be learning and growing. Through Stryker’s PGA Tour program, they are literally bringing education and awareness to consumers all across the U.S. and helping folks understand that if they’re experiencing joint pain, they don’t have to live with it. There are alternate options (sometimes not even joint replacement) that can lead you to a healthy, active lifestyle.
Fenske: How are your joints holding up since your NFL playing days?
Bettis: After playing 13 seasons of professional football, it’s safe to say that my joints know what pain is! While I have some days that are better than others, having a career that was as physical as mine was, it was inevitable that I would likely experience joint pain in my lifetime.
Fenske: How do you deal with any joint pain you experience?
Bettis: I’m currently working with my physician to determine a game plan that’s right for me. Right now, that consists of trying to stay as active as I can, while keeping in mind my busy schedule, which includes a lot of traveling. Something that I’ve been able to do almost anywhere in the world is play golf. And I love it. It keeps me moving, and if I walk the entire course, it’s about four to six miles depending on which one I play.
Fenske: Do you or your doctors foresee a joint replacement procedure in your future?
Bettis: It’s tough to say at this stage in my life, but my guess would be yes. But for now, I’m just staying as active as I can!