Wolfgang Ries: Driving Change in Spinal Care Through Innovation and Expertise

Wolfgang Ries | CEO & Founder | Joimax
Wolfgang Ries | CEO & Founder | Joimax

Germany boasts a healthcare sector distinguished by its excellence, marked by world-class medical infrastructure, stringent standards, and a steadfast dedication to patient welfare. With a robust healthcare system emphasizing accessibility, quality, and innovation, Germany serves as a cornerstone in shaping the future of global healthcare.

Wolfgang Ries, the CEO and Founder of Joimax, emerges as a prominent figure within this dynamic healthcare environment. Through his entrepreneurial drive and visionary leadership, Ries has not only navigated but also significantly influenced the German healthcare landscape. As the driving force behind Joimax, he has leveraged Germany’s healthcare expertise to propel endoscopic minimally invasive spinal surgery to unprecedented levels of success.

In this edition of “Champions of Health: Spotlight on Leaders Shaping Germany’s Healthcare,” we delve into Ries’ extraordinary journey, his pioneering contributions, and his steadfast commitment to advancing patient care.

Let’s dive into the details below!

Wolfgang, can you share with our readers a brief overview of your professional journey that led you to establish Joimax?

As a trained telecommunication technician I graduated from evening high school and I studied medicine later in Vienna. That was the ideal prerequisite for combining medicine and engineering to constantly drive new ideas. My motivation has always been to help people, and I have continuously followed this path. I started joimax in 2001 in the basement and garage of my house together with my wife Irmgard. Before founding joimax®, I worked for 9 years in various positions in sales, product- and marketing management, was VP Business Development Europe at the Baxter CardioVascular Group, now Edwards LifeScience. I was Managing Director of the Franco-German company Saphir Medical for 2 years and held the position of VP Marketing & Business Development at HydroCision Inc, Andover, MA.

What inspired you to focus on endoscopic minimally invasive spinal surgery within the healthcare industry?

The human spine is the very sensitive but also strongest structure of the musculoskeletal system and one of its most complex organs. If there are problems within this complex system specialists are required and special technologies are needed to treat as gentle but also powerful as possible the various diseases. In 2000 I arrived in the spine field and on one hand I was shocked, how crude standard surgery was still done for small diseases then, and on the other hand how well and fast I could develop specific instruments and tools for curing with first pioneering surgeons such widespread diseases.

Endoscopic minimally invasive spinal surgery has the potential to make a significant impact on patient care and healthcare delivery. By minimizing surgical trauma, reducing hospital stays, and speeding up recovery times, these techniques not only benefit individual patients but also contribute to overall healthcare efficiency and cost-effectiveness. This potential for highly meaningful clinical impact motivates me to focus efforts on advancing endoscopic spinal therapy.

What is the core mission of Joimax, and how does it guide the company’s strategic direction under your leadership?

joimax® focuses on innovative technologies, systems and methods for endoscopic minimally invasive spinal surgery. On the one hand, we guarantee the best possible and particularly gentle treatment technologies for patients and, on the other hand, complete systems ensure that the surgeon can work most safely and cost-optimized on a daily base.

In line with the joimax® philosophy “Endoscopic Spine Experts”, we develop professional medical applications using endoscopy – always adapted to the increasing needs of users and patients globally. joimax® constantly tries to implement the latest scientific findings and technologies. In addition, the day-to-day practical experience of our customers and their ongoing feedback helps us to continuously improve our products and processes.

How does Joimax differentiate itself in the market, and what sets it apart in the field of endoscopic minimally invasive spinal surgery?

joimax® offers highly specialized complete systems for endoscopic minimally invasive spinal surgery techniques and is fully focused on this market segment. Our strength lies in the development, manufacturing, marketing and even educating and training of all application systems, methods and devices to users around the globe. On the base of over 500 patents and trademarks to date joimax® products are marketed in more than 60 countries, in Europe, Americas, Asia, Middle East and Africa.  Under ESPINEA®, the in 2019 inaugurated and joimax® powered “Endoscopic Spine Academy”, more than 6,000 surgeons had been trained on the more than 15 systems for treating spinal diseases.

Our surgical solutions enable the gentlest possible treatment, always with the patient’s well-being in mind. All systems and applications are constantly monitored and users are ongoingly publish their findings and results with joimax® systems treated patients in international well recognized journals. Outstanding product quality is guaranteed by certified quality management systems in place in accordance with international standards. In addition, products are “Made in Germany”. Above all that, joimax® is constantly expanding the range of methods, instrument sets and the associated electronic devices.

How do you approach leadership and decision-making within Joimax, considering your extensive experience in healthcare and business?

My approach is always multifaceted and adaptable to the specific needs and challenges of the organization and industry. I believe in fostering a culture of collaboration and teamwork as well as empowerment within the organization. By encouraging open communication and valuing diverse perspectives, I ensure that decisions are well-informed and reflective of the collective wisdom of the team. This approach not only enhances the quality of decision-making but also promotes employee engagement and ownership.

The healthcare industry is characterized by rapid technological advancements and changes, evolving regulatory frameworks, and shifting patient demands and needs. In such a dynamic environment, I prioritize adaptability and agility in leadership and decision-making processes. This entails being receptive to change, proactively seeking opportunities for innovation, anticipate market needs and swiftly adjusting course when necessary.

What key values or principles do you believe have been crucial to your success as the CEO and Founder of Joimax?

Having a clear vision of the company’s purpose, goals, and direction provides a roadmap for success. This vision inspires and motivates both myself and my team to work towards common objectives, but also users facing the enthusiasm of joimax® employees acting as a team driven by patient demand. Focus on our mission and prioritization on currently required tasks and duties had always been and will be key drivers for our long term and lasting success.

Embracing innovation and fostering a culture of creativity and forward thinking enables us to stay ahead of the curve in a rapidly evolving industry. Placing the needs and interests of our customers at the center of everything we do ensures that our products and services are relevant, valuable, and impactful. Building strong customer relationships and actively soliciting feedback helps us continuously improve and adapt to changing market demands.

Recognizing that individual success, but also global acting joimax® teams performance, together with our customers, has to do with looking in every detail for being collectively a top performer. I value very high collaboration, teamwork, and diversity of thought within my organization.

Could you highlight a significant challenge you faced in your career and how you overcame it to drive Joimax’s growth?

We started to FDA register joimax products in 2005 already and incorporated joimax Inc. as a Delaware corporation in 2006. Until 2011 we could start developing the endoscopic spine surgery market in the USA, but as of January 2012 the reimbursement all of a sudden was blocked due to a new language in the AMA (American Medical Association) CPT Codebook. From that time onwards only cash pay and very special indications for endoscopic spinal procedures had been reimbursable. On this base one of our start-up competitors went bankrupt and others left the US market. Together with our investors we analyzed the situation and finally decided that I will fight the US reimbursement system for obtaining a specific reimbursement schematic, which took 5 years to achieve.

As of January 2017 the new AMA CPT Codebook contained the special language which from that time onwards allowed reimbursement of endoscopic spinal surgery procedures. Moreover, even a special reimbursement code was released stimulating a clear ramp-up of business activity and adoption of endoscopic spinal surgery in the USA. Today US surgeons are key drivers in highly ranked publications in top journals studying the significant cost-/outcome benefit ratios of endoscopic spinal surgery versus traditional open surgery methods.

What advice would you share with aspiring healthcare professionals and entrepreneurs looking to make a difference?

Healthcare has always been but is even more ripe for innovation today, with endless opportunities to improve processes, develop new treatments, and enhance patient care. Embrace innovation and be open to exploring novel ideas and technologies that have the potential to revolutionize the industry.

Stay abreast of the latest developments, trends, and challenges in healthcare. Continuously educate yourself through reading journals, attending conferences, and engaging in professional development activities to remain informed and be up to speed in your field.

Always prioritize the needs and well-being of patients. Listen to their concerns, involve them in decision-making, and strive to deliver personalized, compassionate care that meets their individual preferences and values.

Don’t let fear of failure hold you back from pursuing innovative ideas or opportunities. Learn from mistakes, take those to heart, rise up again and keep driving your ideas to your mission where you are assured new solutions can have its place and finally will be needed.

You will be needed within a special space of activity you identify for yourself.