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Asensus Surgical CEO Anthony Fernando extrapolates from current trends, and provides insights into the future of robotics-assisted surgery, digitized surgery and telesurgery. There’s been much discussion regarding robotics-assisted surgery, digitized surgery and telesurgery, including much to be celebrated. For example, new forms of augmented intelligence allow robotic-assisted surgical platforms to perceive (computer vision), learn (machine learning) and assist (clinical intelligence) in surgery—providing a true digital surgical assistant for the first time. For robotics-assisted surgery, digitized surgery and telesurgery to reach their full potential, however, 5G infrastructure must be available everywhere. Robotic-assisted surgical practices, too, must be widespread for advancements to continue. But continue it will, and by extrapolating from current trends it is possible to predict the many ways that progress will take form.
Surgical Robots Market
Prediction 1 – According to market research firm MarketsandMarkets, the global surgical robots market is projected to reach US $14.4 billion by 2026 from US $ 6.4 billion in 2021. Other market research firms project similar levels of growth. The global robotic-assisted surgery market will keep pace with industry projections. Rationale – Growth in this market will be propelled by advancements in surgical robotics enabling technologies, and an increases in funding for medical robot research. Also driving the sector are the well documented advantages of robotic-assisted surgery including reduced surgical variability and an open-platform architectures that enable hospitals to leverage existing technology investments.
New Surgical Platforms
Prediction 2 – New surgical platforms and technology ownership models will continue to be introduced. Rationale – In the last few years, hospitals worldwide have experienced a decrease in their budgets, primarily due to declining government budgets. Cost-cutting has resulted in staff lay-offs, delays in facility upgrades, and freezing capital equipment purchases such as high-cost robotic systems. New healthcare technologies are often developed and introduced in response to tight hospital budgets. The infusion and widespread adoption of new medical solutions are dependent on the availability of reasonably priced enabling technologies and new business models. Given that new, low cost, powerful enabling technologies such as machine vision, as well as new ownership models, continue to be introduced, new robotics-assisted surgical solutions will follow suit.
Surgical Robots in ASCs
Prediction 3: We will see an increase in adoption of robotics-assisted technology in ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs). Rationale: Ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs) are freestanding facilities specializing in surgical, diagnostic, and preventive procedures that do not require hospital admission. The cost-effectiveness of ASCs provides significant savings for governments, third-party payers, and patients. Robotics-assisted technology can support the high volume, low-cost procedures that are typically performed with ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs). Robotics-assisted technology offers low operating cost through the use of standard reusable instruments and open-platform architecture that allows hospitals to leverage existing technology investments. Given that these low-cost operating costs are passed on to the ASCs to keep the cost-per-procedure comparable, we will see an increase in adoption of robotics-assisted technology in ASCs.
Telehealth / Telesurgery
Prediction 4: We will see a shift toward telesurgery. Rationale – The future of telesurgery relies on two factors – the availability of 5G and the widespread adoption of robotics-assisted technologies. As 5G becomes more prevalent, coupled with advances robotics-assisted technologies, telesurgery will become an increasing viable option for certain procedures.
Prediction 5 – We will continue to see the expansion of robotics-assisted technology move into smartphone applications and games, i.e., Pokemon GO and Google Maps recording when you last visited a place. Applications of big data analytics will identify opportunities to target and influence decisions, similar to how augmented intelligence enhances workflows and enables new levels of precision and accuracy. Rationale – Artificial Intelligence allows machines to work and react like humans (and potentially replacing humans). The term “Augmented Intelligence” is used to describe using those same machines to enhance the human worker (not replacing the surgeon, but becoming a digital assistant). Augmented intelligence can enhance workflows and enable new levels of precision and accuracy to be carried out with the ultimate goal of delivering consistently superior surgical outcomes.
About the Author As President and CEO of Asensus Surgical, Anthony Fernando sets the company’s overall strategic vision and oversees its organic growth. Prior to Asensus, Fernando was VP of Innovation and Technology within the International Group at Stryker Corporation, across Stryker’s medical device portfolio. Previously, Fernando held executive positions at Becton Dickinson & Company, PerkinElmer and Varian. Fernando holds an MBA from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and MS and BS in Mechanical Engineering with concentrations in Robotics and Automation from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.