Intuitive touts study finding Da Vinci robot results in downstream cost savings due to superior outcomes

Intuitive Surgical's da Vinci surgical system--Courtesy of Intuitive

Intuitive Surgical ($ISRG) touted a study published in the journal Value in Health, which found that robotic prostate cancer surgery resulted in savings to payers and society of more than $1,000 per procedure over three years due to more favorable clinical outcomes.

Cost savings to hospitals were more ambiguous. It saved them $1,094 in overhead costs, but cost more on an upfront cost basis by $341.

Overall, "higher surgical consumable costs are offset by a decreased hospital stay, lower complication rate, and faster return to work," the authors conclude. They included Intuitive Surgical employees and urologists from Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

Prostate cancer is an established market for Intuitive's Da Vinci robotic surgery platform. Robotic-assisted laparoscopic prostatectomies account for more than 80% of prostate cancer surgeries conducted in the U.S. The company says prostate cancer accounts for 27% of all cancer diagnoses, which lead to direct costs of $127 billion.

"This study further demonstrates that hospital administrators need to look beyond visible operating room costs when analyzing the robotic-assisted surgery value proposition," said Intuitive chief medical officer Dr. Myriam Curet, in a statement. "The ability of robotic-assisted surgery to reduce complications and shorten hospital stays, undoubtedly leads to greater value for patients and healthcare providers."

The company surely hopes the results of the study extend to other surgeries as well, for Da Vinci procedure volume trajectory depends on ability to gain market share in other therapeutic areas, where it is less established.

Although the study builds upon an area of existing strength, having one fairly common surgery as a cornerstone is an asset because it forces hospitals to purchase the device or cede market share to competing institutions in a particular market, prostate cancer surgery, in this case.

Led by Transenterix, a slew of competitors are on the way, including Medtronic and a joint venture between Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) and Verily (formerly Google Life Sciences). They seek to upend Intuitive monopoly in the robotic surgery arena. Transenterix boasts the just CE-marked ALF-X, but said the FDA did not rule on the 510(k) application of its SurgiBot System this quarter, as expected. A decision is now expected in mid-April.

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