Robotics in Ontario’s Health Care System: A Decision That Could Have Disastrous Consequences

News & Events
By Stuart Kozlick, Vice-President of Medical Robotics, Kinova

On August 8th, we learned that a committee of experts advised the Ontario government not to invest in new medical robotics technology to be used in radical prostatectomy (prostate ablation). The committee felt that the benefits of this technology in comparison to the traditional approach were not significant enough to justify the cost. This news may seem commonplace—however, it is the first step towards the “third-worldization” of our health care system.

While the Ontario government has yet to announce whether it will follow this recommendation or not, the mere fact that the committee of experts is dismissing this useful technology that allows for precision in complex surgery is something to worry about. In the case of radical prostatectomy, robotics has many benefits for the patient: the incision is smaller, blood loss is negligible, patient recovery is quicker, therefore patients can leave the hospital sooner, and the time spent using an adult diaper after the operation is reduced by half. However, the committee believes that robotic prostatectomy does not perform better than traditional surgery when it comes to preserving urinary and sexual functions, and according to the committee, there is no indication that it helps prevent cancer recurrence.

If our governments put a stop to these innovations, at the end of the day, the patients will be the ones losing out. -Stuart Kozlick

The committee has put money above patient well-being. At Kinova, we believe that the priorities should be patient well-being and quick recovery. We also believe that technology must be accessible so that patients can choose to take advantage of it or opt for the old way.

News That Has Piqued the Interest of Minister Barrette

On the same day that the news was published, Quebec Minister of Health, Dr. Gaétan Barrette, tweeted: “Interesting debate. Read to decide.” These words raise several issues. We strongly hope that the Minister will choose the path of the technological evolution of health care, so as to benefit all Quebec patients. We would also like to work with Dr. Barrette to make Quebec a world leader in medical robotics.

This case is about urology, but robotics is used in many other areas and for many other surgeries. If our governments put a stop to these innovations, at the end of the day, the patients will be the ones losing out.

For me and for the company that I represent, robotics allows to exceed the physical limits of health professionals and therefore provide better patient care.

As a result of surgical robotics, tools that are traditionally manually operated are now automated and motorized, which allows surgeons to achieve levels of precision that no doctor could have dreamt of in the past. The human wrist, for example, is limited in its movements, so tools in the surgeon’s hand have the same limitations. Medical robotics eliminates these limitations.

It’s safe to say that 50% to 95% of approved, regulated, medical technologies do not make their way into Canadian health care institutions. In this regard, the United States is several steps ahead of Canada. This has to change! Governments need to be partners and not hinder the introduction of these new technologies into the health care system.

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