Robotics and healthcare are two growing industries that get a lot of press and a lot of time, effort and resources put into their advancement. Every so often, these two particular branches of the tech tree overlap, as has been seen in recent days out at Massachusetts' Berkshire Medical where robots are now being used in surgical procedures.
"It was just so smooth" is how 56-year-old registered nurse Karla Delair describes a recent gallbladder removal surgery performed at Berkshire Medical with the assistance of robotic instruments. She further described the experience that it was if she had "never had surgery" at all, and even went as far as to call it "easy", as she experienced none of the normal post-surgery issues like stiffness and a temporary change in lifestyle.
Dr. Andrew Lederman performed the surgery, backed up by a robotic-assisted mechanism known as the da Vinci Surgical System, capable of inserting not only a camera but also an entire series of tools into a human body through a one-inch incision and performing several different surgeries from there. One of these, as Karla Delair found to her great satisfaction, is gallbladder surgery. In fact, Delair was the first recipient of a robotic-assisted single incision gallbladder surgery in Massachusetts, according to reports. And since her successful operation, another 20 patients have expressed interest.
It's a pretty impressive idea and a very impressive system, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that it comes with an equally impressive price tag (News - Alert). Berkshire Medical spent $1 million two years ago for the system and Lederman had to go to Florida to train on the robot, which uses a 3D high definition camera to examine the body. It can even respond to human feedback, allowing those who use it to feel how hard they're pulling on something and even see the difference in how things feel; leading to Lederman's surprise discovery that cancerous tissue in fact feels different from normal human tissue.
A million dollars for one tool no matter what it can do is a big expense and explains part of the reason healthcare costs are as high as they are. Berkshire Medical has to make its money back on that device; essentially that device needs to not only do $1 million worth of surgeries but also match however much it costs in electricity to keep the thing on and running as well as maintenance when it breaks down. That's just for one machine—there are literally dozens in most hospitals—and those costs have to be made up somewhere, generally in costs to the patient to use these devices in the course of their own care.
It's not a problem that can be easily solved and though many have ideas about just how to go about it, the end result is particularly tough to pin down. This will likely make for continuing debate through the months to come.
Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO Miami 2013, Jan 29- Feb. 1 in Miami, Florida. Stay in touch with everything happening at ITEXPO (News - Alert). Follow us on Twitter.
Edited by Jamie Epstein