08/04/16 by Frank Tobe
The number of surgical procedures that use Intuitive Surgical’s machines, ~700,000 in 2015, has steadily risen and was 15% year-over-year 2014 to 2015. According to Fortune, within five years 1/3 of U.S. surgeries (from 15% today) will be performed with robotic systems, with surgeons sitting at computer consoles guiding mechanical arms.
Most top hospitals have invested in these robots which cost an average of $1.5 million and entail ongoing maintenance and procedures’ expenses.
The metrics, however, are such that insurers pay no more for surgeries that utilize the systems than for other types of minimally-invasive procedures, such as laparoscopy. Because of patents and aggressive protection of their IP, Intuitive Surgical is the only game in town. But technology is improving, methods are changing, and a fleet of new competitors – some with very deep pockets – are entering the marketplace.
One market analyst said that “robotics has only penetrated 5-10% of surgical procedures so there is a big opportunity for increased expansion for several players in the market.” In the chart above prepared by Verb Surgical, one can see the growing blue of robotic-assisted procedures and the barely touched laparoscopy procedures on the horizon.