My firm is deeply entrenched in the surgical robotics space. I am watching the growth of the space very closely. Whether the technology is general surgery, spinal, orthopedic, interventional or ENT the market has clearly tipped to the point that surgical robotics is here to stay.
The friction and resistance to acceptance in the market will continue to be serious. Like most things that are “new” or create a potential threat to the norm typically meet resistance.
The most interesting dynamic for me will be watching the 2 different paths that will be available for corporations. Acquire the technology or develop it internally?
The early organizations may not get it exactly “correct” in their first iteration, in fact no one will, although some will get it closer than others. Those that choose to play long ball and remain committed to the game will dominate. You have to be in it in order to eventually compete in the surgical robotic space.
The bigger players who have access to the physicians and are already selling their products to the hospitals and are internally developing their own robotic systems (JNJ, Covidien, Globus) will have a great advantage over those that are acquiring a robotic technology that is not native to their organization.
Those that choose to play long ball and remain committed to the game will dominate.
In fact the companies that are developing their own home-grown systems in order to build a moat around their existing domination of a specific market (endo, lapro, spine, neuro) will have longer staying power due to already existing revenue flow and have a driving reason to make the right investments and tie the tools and surgical platforms in with proper work flow. Human nature will always work harder to keep something than to try and gain something.
Developing a home grown surgical robotic platform and having the advantage of going through the process of daily exposure with the clinical team, a sales force, engineers developing feedback from the end user and access to the physicians is powerful.
Whereas acquiring a surgical robotic system for many companies will be like attempting to jump on a moving train, some will trip and fall flat on their face and others will lose focus as they attempt integration. The mindsets between disposables companies and capital equipment companies are dramatically different.
Whichever path is chosen as in most new markets there will be casualties along the way. It happened with all emerging technologies in the med-tech space. The winners will be the patients as well as the individuals who work in that space, as it should be.