Will Surgeons Lacking Robotic Surgery Skills Become Obsolete?

A few as 8 years ago, many medtech strategists (with experience presenting to the Value Analysis Committee) said it couldn’t be done. Robots and their high priced accessories could not be sold at the enormous price premium Intuitive Surgical commands. Since then Intuitive Surgical has had several years of profitable growth and have returned to their original value proposition. They claim that they have surpassed 5 million surgeries by expanding the value of minimally invasive surgery, through innovation such as integrated systems and single port technology. Their goal is to continue to re-invent minimally invasive surgical solutions that decrease variability in surgery and improve patient outcomes at the same time.

Robotic surgery statistics tell us that Intuitive Surgical has created a market that does not exist in other segments of medtech. Recent data [2] states that greater than 693,000 robotic assisted surgeries were implemented in in the US in 2017. Sales were estimated at greater than $2.4 billion. New markets for robotic surgery have emerged in spine, orthopedic neurosurgery. In 2017 Intuitive Surgical grew its installed base to greater than 2,900 systems in the U.S. and more than 4,500 systems globally.

Stryker has grown into the second fastest growing robot-assisted surgery system market with the Mako™ robotic arm, acquired from MAKO Surgical Corporation in 2013. This is a great strategic fit for Stryker implants such as partial knee arthroplasty (PKA), total hip arthroplasty (THA) and total knee arthroplasty (TKA).

Robotics technologies have so much potential and are truly in the nascent stage of market growth. And, many players are entering this market, such as Zimmer Biomet, Johnson & Johnson, and Google.

What Value Proposition Drives a Premium Medtech Price Strategy?

Some surgeons don’t want to develop robotic skills but with every teaching hospital in the world training new surgeons on robotic systems, this will continue to change. Some of our research has identified the obstacles to robotics surgery put in the way of surgeons who wish to use the robot on their patients by requiring extra paperwork, limited time on the robot, and other methods to manage utilization of this expensive resource.

Face it, surgical trends support less invasive approaches. Just as open abdominal procedures were transitioned to laparoscopic procedures in the 1990s, the robotic surgical evolution will have surgeons operating through smaller or fewer incisions to make surgery less invasive and painful for patients. Clinical outcomes could improve, from a decline in infection, faster patient recovery time, and ultimately, same day surgery for procedures that currently require a minimum overnight length of stay.


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[1] https://elearning.scranton.edu/mshi/ms-health-informatics-certificate

[2] https://idataresearch.com/robotic-surgery-statistics-show-movement-towards-more-minimally-invasive-procedures/