The Emerging Robotic Form Factors in the MedTech Space

“That’s not a surgical robot, I do not know what it is, but it is […]

“That’s not a surgical robot, I do not know what it is, but it is not a surgical robot” my colleague said.

“Yes it is” I replied.

“No it is not” he insisted.

I had a fantastic debate this past week on the emerging surgical robotic form factors in the medtech space. I expect that more of these debates will take place as tech in surgical robotics continues to evolve.

My current mode of thinking when it comes to robotically-assisted surgery and if a system qualifies. Does it….

– Incorporate a computer?
– Sense the environment it is deployed in?
– Respond to forces applied to it?
– Incorporate information from sensors embedded in it and make decisions?
– Does it enhance the cognitive and physical capabilities of the user(s)?
– Can it replace a human in the workflow?

We are coming up on 3 decades since the FDA approved the first robotic general surgery device developed by Computer Motion.

In 2000, the FDA approved Intuitive’s da Vinci system for general laparoscopic surgery.

The FDA and the market refers to it as a Robotically-assisted surgical (RAS) device. We are not yet at a fully autonomous robot in minimally invasive surgery.

The FDA site shares the following:
“Robotically-assisted surgical (RAS) devices are one type of computer-assisted surgical system. Sometimes referred to as robotic surgery, RAS devices enable the surgeon to use computer and software technology to control and move surgical instruments through one or more tiny incisions in the patient’s body (minimally invasive) for a variety of surgical procedures.
The benefits of a RAS device may include its ability to facilitate minimally invasive surgery and assist with complex tasks in confined areas of the body. The device is not actually a robot because it cannot perform surgery without direct human control.”

Let’s not get entrenched in the legacy definition of the original form factors of the surgical robot.

– Procedures will not be held hostage to mimicking shoulders, elbows, and wrists.

– End effectors will go beyond the emulation of the current analog devices on the end of a robotic delivery system.

We best keep our eyes and minds open. The future of healthcare and the surgical robotics market is a lot more of what we do not know than what we do know.

Thank you for the challenge and for making me really think about this, Todd.