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Surgical Robotics: Four Steps To Reshaping The Tech And Healthcare Ecosystem

For nearly two decades, surgical robotics has been redefining the healthcare industry's approach to surgical care. Ensuring highly precise operations, minimally invasive methodology and trailblazing technology, robotically assisted surgeries have transformed operating rooms and patient experiences worldwide.

Despite the strides that the industry has seen in recent years, we are still far from implementing surgical robotics on a large scale. Robotic platforms are only available for a handful of procedures, and most surgeries are still performed without robotic assistance. As such, millions of patients around the world lack access to the precision, accuracy and consistency that surgical robotics offer.

Weaving together the tech and healthcare industries through the integration of surgical robotics can create a holistic ecosystem that will serve patients best while empowering physicians the most. Here are four steps we must take in order to most efficiently implement surgical robotics and bring a future of hope—and health—to patients worldwide.

1. Build on the shoulders of giants. Pioneering the field of surgical robotics, Intuitive Surgical introduced laparoscopic robotically assisted surgeries in the early 2000s, and today its "da Vinci" system is used in over 1 million surgeries per year. Other companies like MAKO Surgical and Mazor Robotics revolutionized orthopedic and spine surgeries, respectively—significantly expanding the role of robotically assisted surgeries worldwide.

In order to most efficiently introduce new surgical robotics platforms and overcome the challenges in implementing such systems in other medical subfields, we must turn to the pioneers that completed the process before us. Understanding the challenges that stood in their way, receiving guidance and counsel from their visionary founders, and treading on the path they have paved over the course of the last 20 years can ensure that the new technologies we are developing today undergo a smoother integration process. By utilizing the precedent they have set, we can turn to overcoming new challenges and eliminating unexpected hurdles along the way.

2. Identify underserved patient populations. Ophthalmology, or the treatment of the eyes, can provide a clear glimpse into the necessity of surgical robotics. Over a quarter of the global population suffers from vision impairment and eye diseases, yet there are only 31.7 ophthalmologists for every 1 million people worldwide. Further, cataract surgeries are the most common surgical procedure in the world, with nearly 28 million procedures carried out annually. Clearly, there exists a wide gap between the demand for and supply of quality, timely surgical eye care.

As such, integrating surgical robotics into a field like ophthalmology could significantly transform the patient experience by increasing access to quality surgeons and treatment. By identifying additional patient populations that are most underserved in today's healthcare environment, we can introduce the proper innovative solutions and create a new ecosystem to serve millions of patients worldwide.

3. Integrate an expert feedback loop. Empowering physicians to perform each and every surgery with the utmost success while scaling up the number of patients they can treat is a core value in surgical robotics. Once surgeons experience the capabilities of robotic platforms, they can serve as a double asset for reshaping the industry—in essence, creating an expert feedback loop that, on one hand, improves the robotic system and, on the other, prepares the industry for integrating the platform.

As such, surgeons who test the surgical robotics platform at any stage of the development process can provide invaluable feedback to enhance the system and its services. Once returning to their practice, they can provide personal testimony to colleagues, hospital management and clinic boards and, thus, advocate for the integration of robotic platforms. Empowered by surgical robotics' potential and capabilities, surgeons can act as ambassadors in the tech and healthcare ecosystem—planting the seeds, preparing the industry for a wider integration of such systems and bringing more surgeons into the loop.

4. Innovate boldly. Physicians today invest over a decade of training to become surgeons, yet reaching the top level of expertise requires an additional substantial, yearslong commitment of practice and experience. Through the development of our ORYOM robotic platform, we've found that surgical robotics—based on advanced computer visualizations, AI-based machine learning and microsurgical robotics—can be 10 times more accurate than the human hand and can provide a level of consistency and standardization to redefine surgical treatment. Infusing the healthcare industry with the most advanced technological developments that are on the market today can elevate current medical practices and improve patient outcomes.

Merging consistency with adaptability, I believe surgical robotic platforms are the next frontier for high-quality surgical procedures. Integrating novel technologies into medical care can open a new world of possibilities for reshaping, redefining and, ultimately, transforming the surgical experience. While learning from the industry's pioneers and visionaries, we must be bold and innovate courageously in order to push the field, industry and ecosystem forward. The steps we take today to broaden the surgical robotics field are paving our path in the future, as the ultimate goal is to take the leap from robotically assisted surgeries to automated robotic procedures.

The time to usher in a new era of surgical robotics is now. Reshaping the tech and healthcare ecosystem in order to encourage the development of surgical robotics platforms and implement them on a broader scale begins with a vision, and it is up to us to turn the vision into reality and ensure that millions of patients worldwide receive the quality surgical care they deserve.

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