The robotic surgery market is buzzing with activity. Since the launch of the first robot-assisted surgery system in 2000 by Intuitive Surgical, the company has pioneered similar products and accessory instruments in this area, drawing the interest of surgeons and the industry alike. As it is a first mover in this area, the company currently leads the robotic surgery category with the da Vinci product line. However, other companies are close to launching their own products in a bid to enter the lucrative market of robot-assisted surgical systems.

The global robot-assisted surgical systems market for general surgery, excluding accessory instruments, is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 13.5% over the next seven years. This dynamic growth is attributed to a number of factors. First, companies other than Intuitive Surgical are working on and planning to launch their own prototype products within the next one to two years.

Growing competition in robotic surgery

While finer details on these products are limited, it is anticipated that the new products will present significant competition to the da Vinci systems, both in terms of pricing and functional capabilities. Medtronic is reportedly planning to launch a surgical robotics system in 2018. In November 2017, Titan Medical reported the successful completion of the first pre-clinical and validation study of its Sport Surgical System, a robotic surgical platform; the company expects the commercial launch of this platform in 2019.

The advantages offered by these systems include the surgeons being able to view anatomical details at high resolution, allowing them to work with more degrees of freedom, thereby improving the surgeon’s dexterity compared to conventional laparoscopic surgery. The use of these systems on patients also contributes to quicker recovery times and lower postoperative complications, which is a prime reason for the positive reception of these systems. In the future, when a larger volume of surgical procedures is expected to be performed with the aid of robotic surgical systems, GlobalData anticipates that the use of these systems will help to save costs by reducing the time associated with patients’ postoperative hospital stays, and will also contribute to a more positive patient experience compared with conventional laparoscopic or open surgical interventions.

Currently, the da Vinci systems from Intuitive Surgical are used in multiple disciplines, including general surgery, urology, gynecology, thoracic surgery and transoral surgery. With the launch of other competitive platforms, the scope of procedures performed with these system is expected to broaden into other surgical areas, including orthopedics and neurosurgery.

Counting the cost

The primary limitation posed by current robotic systems is their acquisition cost. According to Intuitive Surgical’s 2016 annual report, the average selling price of a da Vinci system is approximately $1.5m. In addition to that cost, hospitals must consider the reimbursement associated with every procedure performed using these systems.

Currently, surgical procedures carried out using robotic systems are reimbursed at the same rate as those procedures carried out via the open or laparoscopic access. This has an effect on the uptake of these instruments in hospitals. If the reimbursement value is less than what is required for hospitals to cover the cost of these systems, it is likely to deter the use of these systems in a hospital environment. In publicly funded healthcare systems such as the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK, the uptake of these systems will be affected by the budget allocation to the healthcare sector.

As competitors begin to enter the market, the costs associated with these systems are expected to go down and healthcare providers will have more options to choose from. As new products are launched in the market, GlobalData expects that the technology will mature, and these products will become more common in hospitals and outpatient settings.