With improved control over surgical instruments and a better view of the surgical site, surgical robotics is poised to become the standard of care in the near future.
Until now, the market was dominated primarily by three companies:
a) Intuitive Surgical, whose da Vinci system is the leading system in the market.
b) Hansen Medical, which makes robotically controlled catheters that can be inserted into blood vessels.
c) Mako Surgical, recently acquired by Striker and which makes robots used for knee resurfacing and hip replacements.
Recently, however, many new entrants are coming onto the surgical robotics market and are expected to address trends that formerly slowed the adoption of surgical robotics.
One of the most notable new entrants is Medtronic. They are developing their own robotics platform and signed a development and distribution deal with Israel-based Mazor Robotics and Verb Surgical, a newcomer formed by Johnson & Johnson and Verily (formerly Google Life Sciences). Also, orthopedics player Zimmer Biomet entered the surgical robotics arena with its purchase of French surgical robotics firm Medtech, which plays in brain and spine procedures.
All these companies have staked their claims on making surgical robotics more efficient, smarter and at lower costs. Long story short, surgical robotics is going mainstream.
In this article, we analyze the top three trends that companies are now focusing on in order to reduce barriers for adoption and further increase the value of surgical robotics for healthcare for the near future.
1) Advanced imaging
Recent studies have shown that surgical robotics can reduce the hospitalization period, however, the extended surgery time remains a concern for adoption due to its costs and associated risk of intra-operative complications.
In order to improve accuracy and reduce the time surgeons take to identify structures, companies are planning to apply fluorescence in more indications, allowing for surgeons to mark tissue in real time. This means painting what and where the elements and boundaries are, thus allowing for a better dissection or resection and achieving the best tissue margin performance.
2) Data-driven surgery
One of the weaknesses of the main systems in the market is the lack of significant online and real-time information. While 90% of the surgical robotics systems are connected to the internet, they mostly provide offline analytics around system performance rather than patient data. This is exactly where the new entrants are placing their larger share of focus and investment.
With more advanced systems, surgical robotics companies can bring medical intelligence real-time, providing surgeons with information that can help them during procedures.
However, data communication is just the initial step. Although fully autonomous surgical robots are not planned in the near future, the upcoming platforms will probably include databases of surgeries and the capability of suggesting optimal surgical procedures based on outcomes of similar cases.
New companies realize the importance of big data and machine learning to reach higher levels of standardization, which improves quality and documentation of outcomes.
3) Lower cost of surgery
Perhaps, the strongest opposing factor for the adoption of surgical robotics is the significant upfront investment in capital equipment and the subsequent higher cost of procedures.
In that sense, the largest new surgical robotics companies already stated their intentions to bring down the cost per procedure of robotic-assisted surgeries to a level closer to that of laparoscopic procedures.
Bringing down the cost per procedure is a result of business-model and technology disruption, changing how surgeries are performed with smarter, smaller and cheaper solutions. In addition, there will ultimately be the opportunity for partnerships to exist, as most surgical robotics systems are based on closed platforms.
The immediate question to ask is what benefit is expected and at what point in time? In other words, what can surgical robotics do that laparoscopic procedures cannot? And what is the value of that?
There are many advances expected of surgical robotics and the value of the technology may not only shape the surgical environment, it could also change the entire healthcare system.
One thing is certain: as long as surgical robotics demonstrate value, healthcare stakeholders will find ways to afford the technology.
ValueConnected is developing analyses on the clinical and economic benefits of surgical robotics, as well as their implications for reimbursement and cost structure of hospitals/providers. If you are interested in learning more, contact us at [email protected] or join the Value of Medical Technology LinkedIn Group.