Bringing on board new skills: How are innovations in the orthopedics industry changing the talent landscape?

There’s a huge amount of innovation taking place in the orthopedic technology industry, with everything from robotics to virtual reality (VR) to orthobiologics improving outcomes. What impact are these developments having on the talent landscape in this space?

 

Healthcare is on the verge of a technology-driven revolution, and after attending the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) conference I was struck by some of ways in which new technology is being used within orthopedics. Technology is not only delivering better patient outcomes, it is changing the competitive landscape among technology developers entirely.

The first interesting trend I noticed was the development and implementation of surgical robotics, and the use of AI as well as the potential for augmented reality (AR) and VR in surgical procedures. AI can provide recommendations based on patient records and best practice, around how to perform the procedure, and what kind of implant to use. To complement this, in the future, surgeons may use AR during surgeries to support with real-time recommendations around the best course of action. Physicians are also adopting VR to support with training purposes. These new technologies are offering unparalleled outcomes around precision and safety, as well as greater connectivity and patient experiences. We have seen Stryker leading the way in this space, as the first to market with their Mako robotic system, and the recent annoucement of their partnership with Apple to offer myMako with Apple Vision Pro and iPhone.

The use of technology to create “smart implants” is further evidence of the incredible transformation of the healthcare space. Physicians are now able to use technology to better understand how the healing process is going post-surgery, using sensors to collect data that enables further interventions around recovery, and helps to improve decision-making in future procedures. Organizations such as Zimmer Biomet have been ahead of the game when it comes to smart implants, creating a market for themselves and getting ahead of the pack.

A different kind of innovation, in the form of orthobiologics, is also having an impact on the market. Orthobiologics is a kind of regenerative medicine that uses organic substances such as platelets or cells from one’s own body to treat injuries and support healing. This has meant that in many cases, joint replacement isn’t immediately necessary, and can support the healing of joints post-procedure. This is a relatively new area of medicine, leveraging biotech and other specialisms – but it is having a significant impact on the industry as a whole.

Of course, these innovations have a knock-on effect when it comes to talent requirements, and it was interesting to hear how organizations are shifting to ensure they have access to top-tier talent. We have seen a significant shift in the types of skills that these organizations are looking for – moving beyond the traditional skillset of mechanical and polymer engineering and into everything from electrical engineers, optical engineers, software developers, data scientists, experts in machine learning, and biochemists to serve the market they are creating.

We have also seen a change in the type of commercial leader these organizations are hiring. As the industry moves away from selling individual products to physicians and health systems, and instead starting to offer comprehensive solutions, there is a need for sales leaders with different experiences. Experience with capital selling and the ability to articulate the value of solutions and services comprised of multiple hardware and software products is new to the orthopedics space. For example, we supported a large-cap global MedTech organization to transform and scale their business by finding a Head of Sales for a recently-acquired advanced robotics division, taking into account the specific and changing needs of a sales leader in this space. While the needs of the client were specific, we leveraged our extensive network and knowledge of this industry, so that within three weeks of launch, after having identified over 80 prospective candidates and over 50 conversations, we delivered four shortlisted candidates. Longer-term, it will be interesting to see how business models may evolve, particularly with respect to how digital solutions and technology-enabled services figure into the reimbursement landscape.

It is clear that healthcare – and the orthopedics market specifically – is going through a significant technology-enabled revolution. To remain competitive, MedTech organizations need to prioritze securing the right talent to lead their businesses into the future.

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