Today's Debate: Robot surgery goes global

Intuitive Surgical of Sunnyvale, Calif. has proven the market. Competition for that market will now start to grow.

DaVinci robot from Intuitive SystemsRobotic surgery, which was a pretty new deal just a few years ago, is now a global phenomenon.

Iran has produced its first robotic surgeon. A New Zealand hospital just bought its first daVinci unit and trotted it out for the press.

Brazil hopes its new robot will spur medical tourism. A Canadian hospital just bought one for simple prostate procedures. There's one in southern Spain.

Even Alabama has got this bomb. (Apologies to Tom Lehrer.)

The point is robotic surgery is no longer the big deal it was a few years ago. Intuitive Surgical of Sunnyvale, Calif. has proven the market. Competition for that market will now start to grow.

Innovation is going to be needed on three fronts:

  1. Creating protocols for more complex operations using robotic assistance, and for improving current procedures based on having robots in the operating theater.
  2. Dramatically improving the robots to maintain American leadership.
  3. Continuing education so patients understand doctors are not being replaced, just augmented.

Is America up to this challenge?