This guest post was written by Dr. Catherine Mohr, the senior director of medical research at Intuitive Surgical, maker of the Da Vinci Surgical System, a robot used in prostate removal and other surgical procedures. There, she develops new surgical procedures and evaluates new technologies for improving surgical outcomes.
Mohr submitted this piece in response to a post by Forbes contributor Robert Pearl, who is the chief executive of the Permanente Medical Group. I continue to think Pearl wrote a thoughtful post, but he did not give enough opportunity for defenders of robotic surgery to state their case. That opportunity is therefore given here.
As a doctor and engineer who has dedicated myself to developing new and better ways to perform medical procedures around the world, I have seen firsthand how minimally invasive robotic-assisted surgery has revolutionized the field of surgery. I have also directly experienced the value it can bring to both surgeons and patients.
Disruptive technology such as robotics naturally breeds skeptics. This is a good thing, as every new medical technology should earn its way into practice by either improving outcomes or reducing cost (ideally both). However, skepticism without an understanding of a technology or how it is applied hinders medical progress and does not help improve patient care. A Forbes contributor recently called into question the value of robotic-assisted surgery compared with other surgical techniques, first asserting it had no benefit, then implying that surgeons using this technology were dupes of a marketing campaign before concluding that the only role of robotics was to drive up cost. (See: America’s Broken Health Care System) The published scientific literature shows something very different.