Intuitive Surgical: Making Robotics Real
The notion of highly-articulating robots informs virtually every futuristic vision of our health care system. But actual adoption has taken a long time, as skeptics point to surgeon resistance and concerns about costs. Still, Intuitive Surgical has been impressing everyone with its success in placing its daVinci robotics system and has even won over that most-demanding of constituents: public investors.
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Technology and techniques for minimally invasive surgery continue to evolve as medical device manufacturers and clinicians alike look for ways to further minimize the invasiveness, pain, and scarring associated with surgery. At the same time, the economy and health care reform have created challenges for medical device manufacturers. In response to these challenges, mannufacturers competing in the MIS market are developing new products and marketing strategies designed to ease both the economic and environmental impact for providers.
Robotic-driven technology has begun to transform surgery, but not without leaving some surgeons unimpressed. Now Corindus is trying to bring robots to the cath lab -- and this time physicians love the technology because it provides an ergonomically better experience and both enhances the procedure and reduces health problems.
The tremendous success of Intuitive Surgical over the past two decades seems clearly to argue that robotics is more than a techy's pipedream. Intuitive has already revolutionized at least one procedure - laparoscopic prostatectomy - and it figures to make significant progress in a range of others, in men's health, women's health, and cardiovascular surgery, to name just a few relevant clinical spaces. Even more impressive has been its success as a publicly traded company; for much of the middle years of this decade, Intuitive's stock was the strongest performer among all medical device public offerings. And perhaps most interesting: until recently, Intuitive was virtually the only robotics company to achieve any kind of success at all. In Vivo interviews Lonnie Smith, the CEO of the company for much of the 1990s and 2000s, to whom much of the credit should go.