The Orthopaedic Implant Company, whose mission is nothing less than a big change in the paradigm around the sale of hardware used in orthopedic surgeries, is beginning to gain some traction.
The company headquartered in Reno is posting 25 percent sales growth year-over-year, and the sales growth is beginning to accelerate as the company steadily introduces new product lines.
But Itai Nemovicher, president and co-founder of the 18-month-old company, acknowledges OIC continues to battle long-established competitors that don’t want to see change in the sector.
The battleground: Screws and similar hardware that orthopedic surgeons use as they repair fractures or replace hips and knees.
Traditionally, some of those finely crafted pieces of hardware have cost as much as $300 for even a small screw, costs that have been borne by the patient and his insurance company.
OIC, by comparison, finds orthopedic devices that are coming off patent protection. It outsources manufacturing to FDA-approved facilities and tightly controls costs up and down the line. Until recently, for instance, Nemovicher was the company’s only employee.
A big cost-savings comes because OIC doesn’t send a cadre of marketing specialists into hospitals, says Dr. Tim Bray, a surgeon with Reno Orthopaedic Clinic and one of the founders of the hardware firm.
Marketing costs typically account for 30 percent of orthopedic hardware costs, Bray says, and device-makers often station sales representatives inside operating rooms to assist surgeons.
OIC, by comparison, has relied for its marketing muscle on the nationwide connections of Bray and Dr. Peter Althausen M.D., a Reno Orthopaedic Clinic surgeon who also holds a master’s degree in business and serves as the company’s chairman.
The company recently hired its first sales representative as it begins stepping up its marketing efforts.
“We wanted to make sure that the model worked,” says Nemovicher.
On the other hand, the company’s cautious entry into the market acted to slow its initial growth even more than its founders had projected.
Because the company initially introduced only a handful of product lines, Althausen says, OIC sometimes struggled to get in front of hospital purchasing executives who preferred to deal with fewer vendors who could deliver a wider range of products.
OIC is overcoming that with the introduction of new product lines — it’s averaging about one new product a quarter — as well as testimonials from hospitals that are beginning to post big cost savings.
One northern Nevada hospital, for instance, estimates savings of $250,000 from the use of OIC hardware, Althausen says.
That’s a message that is particularly attractive at surgical hospitals owned by physician groups or medical facilities that have agreed to share the gains from cost-savings measures with medical professionals.
“Then, there’s an incentive for savings.” Althausen says.
The privately held OIC’s first-year revenues fell short of expectations, Nemovicher says, but sales began to accelerate at the start of 2012.
The sales that the company is booking today often result from sales calls in mid-2011, OIC’s president says, as a sales cycle of six to nine months is common when hospitals and surgeons move cautiously to buy a new product from a young company.
The company’s goal is to save the health care system $1.2 billion by 2015 through sales of its products to replace higher-priced orthopedic hardware.