Tuesday, July 22, 2014

There's a lot of good news in this story by Jaimy Lee at Modern Healthcare, but there is also a warning.  The good:

Intuitive Surgical saw its revenue and income fall again in the second quarter as sales of its da Vinci robotic surgery systems continued to drop.

The use of robotic surgery systems in gynecologic procedures such as hysterectomies continued to decline, and that trend is not expected to reverse, company officials noted during a call with investors.

The warning:

Worldwide procedure volume for the company's products went up 9%, led by . . . a higher number of urologic procedures outside of the U.S.

This reminds me of what happened when demand for cigarettes went down in the US.  The tobacco companies then focused on new markets abroad.  The company reports:

The da Vinci Surgical System is being used in hundreds of locations worldwide, in major centers in the United States, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, India, Japan, the Netherlands, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Australia and Turkey.

Gary Schwitzer presents comments, though, that suggest that some of our Canadian friends are looking at this all a bit more rationally:

With surgical robots popping up all over Ontario and other provinces, eventually the public will be asked to cover the costs of these robotic surgeries. Perhaps these robots should be regionalized to maximize efficiencies and thereby lower operating costs? However, every institution wants to be on the cutting edge and have their own robot. Currently in Ontario there are daVinci robots in London, Ottawa, Hamilton and at 5 sites in Toronto. A number of high-volume community hospitals have successfully raised funds to purchase a robot in the near future. With the proliferation of robots, individual institutional volumes will be lower, driving up costs per case. Perhaps regional robotic centres of excellence in each province would be more efficient and cost effective.

Will other countries learn from the US experience?


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