A piece in Barron’s, “Robots in Search of Added Employment,” offers a good update on the proliferation of daVinci robotic surgical systems. From the piece:
I wish, though, that the journalist had left his own story out of his reporting. He wrote:
“It worked for the writer of this story. Nearly five years after my robotic surgery for cancer (see “Robot Dreams,” July 28, 2008), I’ve had no side effects or cancer recurrence.”
That sample of one does nothing but add a cloud over the rest of the story. Instead, he could have tried to include more about outcomes. The closest he came was this:
“Just this month, the professional association of gynecologists who use such tools published a statement concluding that laparoscopic procedures were preferable to robotic for benign gynecological procedures—and much cheaper.
For most doctors, the robot is easier to use than the tools of laparoscopy. Still, good robotic surgery requires practice. A large number of adverse events in surgeries involving the robot have been reported to the FDA, available in a database assembled at the Citron Research Website (citronresearch.com) run by short seller Andrew Left.”
Nonetheless, the overall take home message of the piece is that the robotic proliferation may be slowing. The story’s ending:
“Low-volume hospitals and surgeons may find their robots underutilized. And if high-volume centers manage to turn a profit on their efficiency, they won’t necessarily pass those savings on to society. In a cost study just out in the Journal of Urology—by Jim C. Hu, a urology professor at UCLA’s Geffen School of Medicine—high-volume hospitals proved more pricey for prostate surgery.
Intuitive shares deserve to trade at a premium to the stock-market multiple. But in light of the various head winds facing the company, it doesn’t merit a multiple that’s twice as high as the market’s.”
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