Review Article

Robotic surgery: finding value in 2019 and beyond

Rafael E. Perez, Steven D. Schwaitzberg


Despite its significant associated costs, demand for robotic surgery continues to grow exponentially, with surgeons and patients alike increasingly gravitating towards health systems that provide access to robotic surgery. As it continues to develop its competitive advantage in robotic surgery, it is imperative for the modern health care systems to remain well-informed on the current state of robotic surgery and its role in improving health care quality and providing value to the system. The demand for robotic surgery is at an all-time high and continues to grow. Heavy marketing of da Vinci, and its role in improving minimally invasive surgery have led to substantial growth at hospitals and surgical centers around the country. However, current offerings require large initial capital investments and have high recurrent costs. Moreover, research to date has not proven robotic surgery superior to conventional laparoscopy for a majority of surgeries. As healthcare executives, this raises a dilemma: “Is robotic surgery worth it?” In short, the answer is “yes!” This requires careful consideration of several factors including a shift in frame of comparison, a focus on long-term outcomes, finding ways to increase robotic volume, and considering the effect of competition. The robotic surgery industry continues to grow exponentially; it is clear that it is here to stay. Intuitive Surgical has entrenched itself in the American Healthcare system with its aggressive marketing and advanced robotic surgery system. However, in current research, robotic surgery has not proven itself superior to conventional laparoscopy; costs often exceed those of laparoscopy. The increased demand and da Vinci’s perceived flaws have sparked new competition aimed at improving value by improving quality and lowering costs. While more research is needed, this report suggests that it is indeed possible to derive significant value from robotic surgery.

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