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Joanna Szyman for PMR: Surgical robotics during a pandemic

joanna szyman da vinci

The coronavirus pandemic, although dangerous in its consequences for most areas of life and economy, also has liberating features, e.g. for medicine and development of surgical robotics. Already before the COVID-19 pandemic, surgical robotics was one of the fastest growing medical fields in the world. What is important during the epidemic and the need for isolation, many of these operations can be performed at a distance. – Therefore, the question is how the trend of such a leap forward in robotics and the growing role of robotic operations will continue even after its expiration – says Joanna Szyman, President of the Board of Directors of Neo Hospital and managing director of the Szpital na Klinach, where one of the da Vinci robots is installed, for PMR.

Surgical robotics celebrates success

The pandemic and the dangers associated with COVID-19 show us further advantages of surgical robotics, such as the possibility of keeping a distance or even the possibility of performing a surgery at a distance. – It is impossible to ignore the changes in the issue of physicians’ education based on virtual training on simulators under computer control. The values that a patient gains from a robotic operation cannot be overestimated. Smaller incisions and less blood loss during the operation, as well as greater comfort and shorter hospital stay, and thus a quicker return to life and work efficiency, are just a few of the reasons for the growing popularity of robotics surgery – says Joanna Szyman.

Therefore, already before the pandemic, manufacturers of surgical robots celebrated successes. According to estimates by Global Market Insights, over the next six years the value of the robotic surgery market will grow at an annual rate of almost 25% – from $5.5 billion in 2018 to over $24 billion in 2025. Over 40% of this value is generated in the US market. The European market is even more dynamic, thanks, among other things, to other countries opening up to robotic systems. It is worth noting that last year’s report “Surgical robotics market in Poland 2019. Development forecasts for 2020-2023” (Polish version only), prepared by a team of market analysis and research experts from PMR in cooperation with Upper Finance, predicts that in Poland the market may grow from PLN 92m in 2019 to as much as PLN 500m in 2023, i.e. over 50% of the annual average over the next four years.

Over 50% increase in the number of da Vinci procedures in Poland

The exclusive distributor of da Vinci robotics systems in Poland, Synektik, also feels a strong trend associated with the development of robotics in Polish medical facilities.

Comparing the first quarter of 2019 to the first quarter of this year, we recorded a 51% increase in the number of procedures performed in Poland. This increase could have been much higher if it hadn’t been for the pandemic that affected the dynamics of some centres. It is worth mentioning that in April the tender for delivery of the da Vinci robotics system to PSK Hospital No. 2 in Szczecin was awarded, whose financing comes directly from the Ministry of Health. We also have a new da Vinci centre in Warsaw at the CSK MSWIA Hospital since February – says Artur Ostrowski, Member of the Board, Managing Director of da Vinci at Synektik, the exclusive Intuitive Surgical distributor in Poland.

Currently, there are more than 5,500 da Vinci robots in operation worldwide, and every 26 seconds this system is used. So far, more than 7.2 million operations were carried out with the use of robotic systems. – Not without significance is also the fact that the potential in new technologies is also recognized by the European Commission, which presented a vision of the digital transformation of the continent. These are initiatives concerning the implementation of artificial intelligence and robotic solutions in various areas, including the medical field. Currently, they are to help solve the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, but ultimately they are important for the entire medical industry – adds Joanna Szyman.

Intuitive Surgical grows on da Vinci

Currently, the da Vinci robot system is the most popular robot for minimally invasive operations. This is also reflected in the condition of the company producing such systems. Total revenue of Intuitive Surgical in 2019 amounted to nearly $4.5bn, which is a 20% increase compared to 2018, when $3.7bn was recorded. In addition, revenue in Q1 2020 was $1.1bn, up 13% from $974 million in Q1 2019. Operating profit for Q1 2020 increased to $283m, compared to $252 million for Q1 2019. As of March 31 of this year, 5,669 systems were installed worldwide, an increase of 11% from 5,114 at the end of Q1 2019.

Importantly, tools and accessories are the main source of revenue, i.e. as much as 54%. Sales of surgical systems account for 30% of total revenue. In 2019 alone, this segment increased by 19% compared to 2018. The company’s operating result, which in 2019 amounted to nearly $1.4bn, with a margin of 30.7%, is also impressive – explains Joanna Szyman.

Intuitive Surgical allocates massive resources to research and development every year. In 2019, this was $557.3m, accounting for 32% of total operating expenses. Currently, the latest version of System da Vinci SP (Single Port) is being tested, as well as the first 40 installations have been implemented, mainly to confirm clinical suitability and to define and approve the FDA list of medical indications. A novelty offered by the new da Vinci system is the possibility to introduce instruments from one puncture with a diameter of 28 mm. – The system is not yet offered in Europe. The probable date of European premiere of the new system is 2021 – concludes Szyman.

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