The surgical robotics market in the US has finally become competitive.
In October, the FDA granted clearance to only the second robotic surgical system to date – the TransEnterix Senhance laparoscopic platform.
The clearance was a huge milestone for the Morrisville, N.C.-based company and was quickly followed by yet another – almost exactly a month after receiving a nod from the federal watchdog, TransEnterix logged its 1st sale of the platform to the Orlando-based Florida hospital.
“I think it’s really validating for our technology to have a sale so soon after [clearance]. The Florida Hospital is a tremendous facility and they’re a member of the Adventist Health System, which operates 45 hospitals in nine different states. And they’ve always been in the forefront of innovation. And we were very excited that they were interested to the point where they wanted to acquire the first system in the United States,” CEO Todd Pope told The Robot Report in an interview last week.
The sale opened the doors to a market that has been dominated by competitor Intuitive Surgical and its da Vinci platform for over 20 years. And it won’t be the last for the company, Pope said, as many other healthcare facilities and organizations are interested in the Senhance and its unique offerings.
“We certainly have strong interest from around the country. We announced that we now have 17 sales professionals in the United States alone, focusing day in and day out, on meeting with folks and introducing them to the benefits of Senhance, so we’re excited as we go forward from here to meet with all those surgeons and executives at hospitals that have interest in the first robotic platform available, new that is, in the last 20 years,” Pope said.
Drawing a fair amount of attention is the platform’s ability to relay haptic feedback to the operating surgeon, Pope said – something its competition has yet to integrate.
“Our system offers haptic feedback – that gives the surgeons a sense of touch, and they’ve not had that up to now in robotics,” Pope said.
The integration of haptic feedback – or being able to ‘feel’ the micro-sized surgical tools the operator is using – improve the surgeon’s sense of security and accuracy during procedures, Pope said.
Other improvements include the ability to actively control three separate robotic arms – one for each hand, and a camera arm that actively follows the operator’s eyes to allow the surgeon to keep a tight watch on the procedure.
“We’re able to allow them to control three robotic arms at one time, where in the past technology they’ve only been able to control two,” Pope said. “We track their eyes, so wherever they look on the screen, the camera follows. So they’re able to do seamless, multi-quadrant surgery, which is a big benefit we hear from all of our surgeons using this system.”
In the same way that competitor Intuitive’s growth can be linked to conversion of open surgeries to robotic-assisted surgeries, Pope is hopeful that the Senhance system can do the same to convert laparoscopic surgeries.
“Our main focus is on laparoscopic surgeons and laparoscopic surgery. Our Senhance robot was designed to take the familiarity of laparoscopic surgery and really improve on that in many ways, so that is where our efforts are going to be focused,” Pope said.
The company is hopeful it will be able to expand indications for the device over the comping months, opening it up to a larger share of an untapped market in robotic-assisted laparoscopic surgeries.
“We’ve committed over the next couple of months to continue to file more human clinical data to expand our current indication here in the US,” Pope said. “We’re looking forward to filing applications including hernia and gallbladder data – so that we can continue to expand our indications.”
Outside the US, Pope said that the company has a serious interest in Asia, and that it sees it as a “very important market for us, and robotics in general.”
For Pope, the success of the Senhance system means more than just a successful business, but an inherent jump in value to our healthcare system as a whole – and one that will lead to more predictable surgeries and lowered costs.
“In other industries, robots have been designed and implemented for more efficiency, more predictable outcomes and to drive down cost. And I think that’s what the healthcare field wants out of robotics, and they haven’t necessarily gotten that up to now,” Pope said. “I think most people in healthcare agree that robotics can bring tremendous value to the healthcare system. It’s one of the biggest growth drivers. We’re really proud after many years of working to be just the second robot approved in the US market, and the feedback we’re getting from healthcare workers, surgeons, and patients is overwhelmingly positive, so we’re excited about the place we find ourselves and continue to work hard to bring better clinical results and great value,” Pope said.