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Stryker knows its way around marketplace

By: Angie DeRosa

December 10, 2012

For Stryker Corp., innovation does have a definition and its new president and CEO, Kevin Lobo, has a message for those seeking true innovation in health care.

“There is this feeling that innovation is the enemy of good, cost-efficient health care,” Lobo said at the Cleveland Clinic’s 2012 Medical Innovation Summit, Oct. 29-31 in Cleveland. “Innovation doesn’t mean a more expensive implant.”

Stryker will be an innovator and it will push global growth, Lobo promised.

In innovation, take, for example, the Stryker GetAroundKnee campaign. The GetAroundKnee replacement is not a new product, but Stryker’s marketing campaign is historic and an innovative angle to building market share.

Stryker took the marketing campaign for the GetAroundKnee direct to consumers through television promotionals, magazines and online through Web commercials, YouTube and Facebook. Promotions focus on the way the product is designed to not only replace the knee but its “naturally circular motion.”

The company holds seminars, inviting potential patients to find a local seminar by typing in a zip code on its website.

As for the idea that only completely new products have the innovation advantage: “The freshness index isn’t as important as it used to be,” Lobo said. “We have a very fast-growing knee business and it’s not a new knee.”

The demand for orthopedics, which is Stryker’s core business, is expected to grow exponentially. It is being turbo-charged because of an aging population and children getting involved in sports earlier in life.

“These trends don’t just exist in the United States but around the world,” Lobo said. “The imperative around innovation is even more important.”

Innovation is critical in a segment where procedures are very complex and there are many variables. “The patient experience is very inconsistent,” he said. “Too many are not very satisfied.”

An organization’s people and its communication have to be targeted at innovation. Five years ago, innovation primarily came from engineers. Now, all disciplines have to work together for an outcome that is both effective and remarkable. That includes research and development, information technology, doctors and nurses.

“Relationships always are going to be important,” he said. “We can’t innovate anything without partnering. We can’t innovate without consulting with surgeons.”

To illustrate that point, the Cleveland Clinic gathered an all-star panel to discuss: “Returning to Work: Repairing World Class Athletes.” The discussion included Shannon Bahrke Happe, a three-time Olympic skier and World Cup champion; Zydrunas Ilgauskas, a retired (7-foot 3-inch) NBA All-Star and All-Rookie MVP; David Scott, a U.S. triathelete and six-time Ironman Triathlon World Champion. Also on the panel were two doctors, including the sports medicine director at the Cleveland Clinic. In the case of Bahrke Happe and Ilgauskas, innovative orthopedic procedures restored them to competition.

Lobo’s Stryker also is relying on the expertise of health-care economists, especially as his firm beefs up R&D spending and its mergers and acquisitions activity. He doesn’t feel pressed to be a consolidator; pushing global growth is part of the firm’s agenda.