When someone asks me, “what’s the most difficult part of introducing robotics to the medical space?” I’m hard-pressed to find an answer. Not because there aren’t challenges, but quite the opposite: I think, ‘ok, where should I begin?’
There are countless factors that limit the integration of a new product into the healthcare system, regardless of a product’s ability to help people. This is an issue that Kinova is working tirelessly to overcome.
Two main keywords always come to mind when searching for answers: adoption and accessibility, and the acceleration of both processes. Adoption refers to the desire — of both healthcare professionals as well as patients — to use a new tool in the medical context. Accessibility is slightly more complicated and lies within the realm of regulatory affairs; it’s dictated by both regulators and institutions, and the policies therein.
A big discussion within the walls of Kinova’s headquarters surrounds the challenge of penetrating our market, in other words, cultivating accessibility and adoption at a faster pace. With that in mind, I’ve devised a list of the key questions the robotics and medical communities need to answer.
How can we transform a legacy system to achieve greater accessibility?
My thoughts… First and foremost, we can’t always think about pushing robotics on people. We might believe in their potential and their efficiency. But to get buy-in, innovators need to take a step back and let the data make the arguments for them. Sometimes, there’s no real difference between traditional interventions and robotic interventions. If you can’t prove a measurable efficiency, something was lost in your product planning along the way. Always think value and real-life application in order to shift the paradigm to pave way for greater levels of accessibility.
What strategies can we deploy to help accelerate adoption?
My thoughts… Using robotics for surgical intervention isn’t a concept that’s beloved by all surgeons — unfortunately. Surgeons are a very particular sector of people (and for good reason), who need to understand, very clearly, how and if robotics will increase efficiency and patient success rates. Keep in mind that surgeons don’t want to be removed from the equation (as they shouldn’t be), and know they want to know that your tool will empower them, not replace them. Provide the data and insights that prove the worthiness.
How can we reroute and challenge our thinking internally, to ensure our robotics products are useful to medical professionals?
My thoughts… If your product team isn’t tying all of their decisions back to the idea of impact, you need to shift the culture immediately. I always prompt my team members to think about what they create from a highly personalized perspective, ‘Are you ready to have that technology be used and performed on a family member?’ By making your design decisions patient-centric from the get-go, you stay focused on the gravity of your potential impact. Inasmuch as our robotic tools have the potential to save someone’s life, they can, too, harm someone. If you don’t respect and appreciate the power of your technology — you’re not approaching your engineering and development from the right perspective.
What should the next steps be for the medical robotics communities?
My thoughts… It’s time to educate ourselves. Begin by incorporating the ‘PACE’ (Professional Affairs and Clinical Education) framework into product releases as well as commercialization, which will help create customized training approaches for clinicians and surgeons, and will allow product creators to work directly with healthcare leaders in multiple societies. We need to work relentlessly to build educational programs, fellowships in medical robotics, and specialized courses that inspire young students and target future surgeons. We must partner with practitioners, rather than merely sell to them, to create data that proves your technology is worth it. Once we generate the data, we can prove that it’s time for widespread adaptation of robotics in the O.R., which will have a domino effect on the entire ecosystem.