Are surgical robots important to ASC growth?

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Surgical robots have seen exponential growth in ASCs, despite the high costs to acquire them. 

Five ASC leaders spoke with Becker's about the necessity, or lack of necessity, of surgical robots to ASC growth.

Editor's note: These responses were edited lightly for clarity and brevity. 

Question: On a scale of 1-10, how important are surgical robots to ASC growth? Why?

Jennifer Zayas, RN. Nurse Manager at Center for Pain Management (Sartell, Minn.): We do not use surgical robots in our practice. However, I feel with the advancement of technology, surgical robots will become a significant and important asset in ASCs. Decreasing recovery time and reducing pain are both significant benefits of surgical robots. The increase in time under anesthesia does decrease the rating I would give, along with the price tag of owning the technology. My rating would be a six. 

Armando Colon, CASCC. Privacy & Compliance Officer at the Day Surgery Center (Winter Haven, Fla.): Our vision is to design a robotic program that enables surgeons to perform minimally invasive surgery with enhanced visualization and accurate control. We would scale 10 on how important are surgical robots. We push for a better medical ecosystem — from the patient journey, to the operating room staff experience, to improved training, procedures and outcomes. We champion a healthcare industry where patients in every community can expect and have access to the most advanced quality care at a predictably lower cost with the best possible results. Robotics is an important consideration when planning capital expenditures. Cost of surgical robots, cost of operating a robotic case which includes, but not limited, to disposables, supplies and staff vs. the reimbursement to obtain an adequate return on investment are factors to be considered.

Susan Bianco, RN. Administrator at Big Creek Surgery Center of Southwest General (Middleburg Heights, Ohio): Many things need to be considered before purchasing a robot — return on investment, market share and physician buy-in. Without all of these, a successful program can't be achieved resulting in growth. I think a successful robotics service program at an ASC is definitely a 10 for growth if all of the stakeholders focus on a common goal and remain together throughout the entire planning, integration, evaluation and revision stages.

Josef Novak, MD. Pediatric physician at Texas Health Dallas: I think the progress in robotic surgery over the past 20 years has been stunning. I witnessed the acrimony between computer motion and intuitive surgical for years until these archrivals/enemies decided to join forces to take the best of both machines, the Zeus and DaVinci, to make the final product that revolutionized surgeries of all types. For those who master the technique, the minimally invasive procedures and attendant precision are conducive to faster and less risky surgeries, reducing possible infections and quicker healing times. So I give their importance and growth a solid 10. 

Matthew Tewksbury. Business Manager of Perioperative Services at The Christ Hospital (Cincinnati): I would rate it an eight. I think this technology is how our surgeons are being trained, and I think robotics will reimburse differently from laparoscopic in the future due to clinical outcomes and the complexity of cases that can be accomplished with reduced potential for opening. I think this is a great marketing tool for recruiting and if utilization warrants — purchasing additional as a retention tool to allow surgeons space on the schedule when robotics is preferred. I do think, for now, there is still a preference for some surgeons to continue laparoscopically, so a consideration for maintaining laparoscopic technology should still exist. The goal is to be inclusive with technology and not limit access to the operating room with forced conversions. 

Sam Williams. Assistant Vice President of Operations at Ambulatory Surgery Northwell Health (​​Lake Success, N.Y.): I would say it's a six. Having a robot is not necessarily needed for growth because many of the outpatient cases are quick enough that a robot may hinder turnover times and efficiency. However, patients like the idea of having surgery on a robot and like the newest technology. It can also have a positive impact on the recovery of patients. We have a Mako Robot for hips and knees that has allowed us to grow our total joint volume, which would have otherwise been done in our main hospital's operating rooms.

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