Wednesday, October 27, 2021

There’s No Turning Back: Surgical Robots Are Here to Stay

Ask the CFP Practitioner

Robot Jokes: What did the pirate say to the robot? Arrrrr2D2! Why is a robot never lonely? Because he’s always making new friends.

Question: Do robotics in the health care industry really improve results? 

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Answer: Doctors rely more and more on robotic technology in their practices. Minimally invasive surgical (MIS) procedures have become commonplace for many specialists. Hospitals are expanding robotic programs for both soft tissue and hard tissue procedures. With improvements in robotic dexterity and the need for less space in the operating room as the robot’s footprint size shrinks, their usage is expected to increase. Surgical robotics is here to stay.

At a symposium hosted by Raymond James Research, the Mayo Clinic discussed how the use of robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) gives their surgeons more accurate instrument control when precision and flexibility matter most. Other benefits are less blood loss due to increased accuracy, less pain and fewer incidents of surgical site infection. 

Surgeons using robotic techniques typically sit at a computer console with three-dimensional (3-D) and high-definition (HD) capabilities. This is helpful for more complicated and delicate operations. Other benefits are quicker recovery and smaller scars for patients who undergo minimally invasive surgery. Our bodies consist of soft tissue, hard tissue and a whole lot of water. Surgical approaches for each are different for each. Joints and bones call for a more rugged approach than soft tissue like blood vessels, muscles, nerves, the brain and other vital organs.

Personal Experience

My husband Pete had two total knee replacements; the first in 2015 and the second in March 2019. The recovery time and overall experience for the second procedure last spring was markedly improved. His surgeon explained that a less invasive procedure and improved techniques contributed to his great results. 

Three Dimensional

Robotic procedures using 3D and HD advancements like fluorescence imaging give surgeons better command of the surgical site. Moving from traditional open surgical procedures like open-heart surgery to robotic-assisted MIS procedures is likely to provide benefits for the patient and the hospital. With a less invasive approach, recovery time is typically faster, complications and hospital stays are often shorter, or nonexistent. With fewer complications and better outcomes, it is expected that MIS costs will continue to drop. It’s likely that over the long-term, the initial capital expenditure will be covered. Increased safety, improved results and cost savings should benefit consumers and providers over time. 

Continued innovation is expected to shrink the rather large footprint of the robot and its sometimes-awkward arms. At the same time, the goal is for dexterity and flexibility to increase. Software data analytics can track a surgeons’ performance, monitors image guidance success and provide hard tissue measurements for robotic procedures. It’s hoped that enhancements in all areas will sharpen results. 


With the improvement in MIS robotic usage for spinal, knee, and hip repair, other applications such as complex shoulder surgeries continue to evolve. The successful integration of software and hardware is essential. Image-guided design systems are allowing surgeons to perform more precise placement maneuvers for orthopedic hardware like rods, pins and screws. With the help of science, technology, and engineering and math (STEM), the goal is to reduce some of the difficult and draining demands placed on surgeons. The true definition of success remains to be patient satisfaction with results. 

Dr. S. Duke Herrell, Surgeon and Urologic Cancer Specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical School in Nashville, Tennessee participated in the aforementioned med-tech symposium where discussions suggested that the robotic train has left the station. Let’s hope the human element was on board!

It’s expected that med-tech innovation will progress in a similar way to what occurred in the automotive and semiconductor sectors. MIS is the norm for urologists with medical schools and residency training programs teaching robotics as the primary form of surgery. Many newer surgeons are less familiar with open procedures and prefer MIS. Robotic surgical techniques are becoming more commonplace in general surgery and other specialties as well. 

Companies who are first to provide Med-tech robotic devices may have an advantage. Not surprisingly, the research and development costs, along with an expectation of end-user training and service to gain and maintain market share, could be a curtail success. Because of this, smaller companies may find that to be competitive; they’ll need unique capabilities and features or focus on developing new technology and selling it off to a larger competitor. 

Challenges and limitations for robotics and MIS techniques in the health care sector remain. At the same time, robotics and AI med-tech surgical capabilities and opportunities increase with the intention of benefiting both the provider and patient with improved MIS results. Stay focused and plan accordingly. 

*The grandkids were in town for Thanksgiving while I was writing this. That’s why there are robot jokes! 

The data and information contained herein was obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness are not guaranteed. The author’s views are as of November 29, 2019, and subject to change based on market conditions and other factors “Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. owns the certification marks CFP®, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, CFP® (with plaque design) and CFP® (with flame design) in the U.S., which it awards to individuals who successfully complete CFP Board’s initial and ongoing certification requirements.” This article provided by Darcie Guerin, CFP®, Vice President, Investments & Branch Manager of Raymond James & Associates, Inc. Member New York Stock Exchange/SIPC 606 Bald Eagle Dr. Suite 401, Marco Island, FL 34145. She may be reached at 239-389-1041, email Website:

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