What's Wrong with the da Vinci Robot?

Joe Cantlupe, January 26, 2012

Leonardo da Vinci was a study in contradictions: He was an artist and a scientist who often didn't finish what he started. He despised war but invented deadly weapons.  As the painter of the Mona Lisa, he was highly praised, but only completed a few other artistic works.  He studied elements of flying, but never published his ideas.

Da Vinci's inconsistencies made me think of the da Vinci Robot, his namesake device that some see as revolutionizing healthcare and others see as revolting: Indeed, it is a study in conflict itself.

Surgeons control the da Vinci from a console designed for minimally invasive techniques.

The robot was once again in the news recently in the wake of a report from the ECRI Institute that identified the da Vinci robot, as well as some other technologies, that fail to improve care—or were weak—based on data the institute collected. The ECRI Institute, based in Plymouth Meeting, PA, researches cost-effectiveness in patient care.

ECRI acknowledges that, as more physician residents are trained in the da Vinci robot, there is growing pressure among hospitals to acquire it, which costs between $1 million to $3 million apiece. What's more, applications for robot-assisted surgery have "outpaced supporting clinical evidence for improved patient outcomes, cost-effectiveness and commensurate reimbursement," ECRI states.

Joe Cantlupe Joe Cantlupe is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media Online.Twitter

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