Interacting with the digital world

Medical Robotics

Interacting with the digital world

by Pininvest Analysis

In previous notes we discussed the range of medical procedures lending themselves today, or in a not so distant future, to usage of robots and the path breaking Intuitive Surgical  devices in the field

 

The term of medical robotics is something of a misnomer because of the focus on what they are not – engines operating surgical interventions on patients – leaving in the dark the potential contribution of this very powerful addition to the tool-kit of the surgeon

Part of the popular attention – and the focus of the investment community – can be traced to the success of the Intuitive Surgical units, in use in most US hospitals and distributed around the world

But while the well-established da Vinci platform of Intuitive generates healthy competitive attention, market trends, technological advance and the diversity of medical robotic devices under development, call for a wide-ranging evaluation of their impact on every aspect of health care services

To get a clear headed understanding of what medical robots can do today and of their transformative role in medical procedures in the future, the research effort of the Alphabet and Johnson & Johnson  joint venture Verb Surgical defines the score card with five technology pillars — robotics, visualization, advanced instrumentation, data analytics, and connectivity

  • Launched in December ’15, with an informal target release date of 2020 for its first product, Verb hopes to reinvent medical instrumentation in a digitalized world
  • The intent is to address the needs of 5 billion people who today do not have access to surgery, and to make the procedures safer and more effective for everyone.

Vastly ambitious and disruptive on a worldwide scale, for the industry and the medical universities, the hospitals and the health care organizations at large, Verb Surgical will be discussed in a follow-up note in an attempt to divine the future

 

The specifications of the enterprise already point what key features will come to pass in a step by step integration of robotic devices with the digital world to achieve complete interaction in the later stages

 

  • In surgery and in diagnostics procedures (biopsies), devices reduce incisions and favor natural entry points in the human body. With advances in miniaturization, more flexibility, more diversity in robotic solutions and more robotic medical procedures already have passed the test stage, and will put the onus on full system connectivity beyond the operating theater

 

  • Robotic devices intermediating between the surgeon (at the operating console) and the patient recreate the exact conditions familiar to the surgeon. Features such as haptic feedback (recovering a sensation of feeling the tissues), optic sensors commanded by eye movement, open consoles for visual interaction with the patient and overhead digital access to pre-operation diagnostics are transformative but do not shake up medical practice

 

  • Devices will, ideally, establish a continuous data flow of the patient’s health condition, accessible at every stage to the health professionals. Implying a deep realignment of all the medical data related to the patient, an unhampered complete data flow extends beyond the operation theater into the outer reaches of health organizations. Optimal paths, both in terms of medical treatment and in terms of costs, will be identified : medical failures and cost overruns will be analyzed, requiring adjustments in procedures or in organizations as more statistical data become available

 

  • By collecting the parameters of numerous procedures in a central data basis, the devices extend to features of artificial intelligence. This later stage in the interaction between medical robotics and digital information paves the way for machine learning and back-and-forth dialogue between human surgeon and machine 

 

These features are relevant in all three main fields of interest – diagnostics, surgery and orthopedics – and Verb’s digital vision, relevant to all, implies that alone-standing devices, however effective, may ultimately be on the way out …

This is because the sea-change brought about by robotics is not limited to the devices themselves, but rests in the radical overhaul of the health care system

  • redefining the way health professionals interact with the robotic assistants
  • remodeling the architecture of health organizations, to achieve the full integration of all the hospital services - and beyond - streaming the data information

Robotic devices are only in the first inning of such a technological breakthroughs and, for this reason alone, the attention of manufacturers and device start-ups remains focused on the technical challenges of their devices. 

But their ability to integrate the digital dimension will soon be the game changer and a partnership (or a sale) to one of the digital 'eco-systems' will then become the preferred option for many

 

A review of the rich field of medical robotics start-ups will be discussed in a follow-up note

Pininvest Analysis

Pininvest Analysis

Experienced professionals, seeking to combine financial acumen and business expertise