Devices & Diagnostics, Health IT

What does analytics mean to Intuitive Surgical?

The word analytics is bandied about a lot in healthcare these days, and the CEO of Intuitive Surgical explains what it can mean in the context of surgical robotics.


Intuitive Surgical reported solid second-quarter earnings on Tuesday, roundly beating analyst expectations driven by procedure growth, among other things.

The Sunnyvale, California, company that pioneered the field of surgical robotics has held sway on the market even as upstart competitors stumble or begin to offer different visions of the future.

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And in one such future articulated by the CEO of Verb Surgical, a joint venture between Google’s Verily and Johnson & Johnson, the idea of analytics and advanced imaging is at the fore.

Intuitive Surgical also has been talking up these points. In its conference call to discuss earnings on Tuesday, CEO Gary Guthart declared that the company has been making investments in analytics and imaging as a way to improve outcomes and expand access to Intuitive Surgical’s technology globally.

But David Lewis, an analyst with Morgan Stanley, needed more details and popped a question seeking to understand what the term “analytics” really means to executives at the company.

Here’s how Guthart responded, according to a transcript of the call from Seeking Alpha:

I think analytics has multiple components in it. As you may know, the majority of our systems are real-time connected to the Internet today. I think over 90% of systems are online. They report back information to us mostly around the system performance itself, what it is itself is doing, rather than, say, patient information. That data can be turned into insights for the company and for our customers and we have been doing that for some time now. So there’s that type of analytics.

Going forward, I think that as our computational structures get more powerful, we can bring some of that intelligence more real-time. So rather than offline insights, you can start generating real-time insights. That’s a multi-year pathway. I think it’s interesting and challenging. I think there’s long-term potential in it. But we’re moving down that pathway, making sure that we have good access and fast access and low latency access to our devices in the field, and then bringing to bear information that can help surgeons as they’re performing the procedure. And you’ll see from us in future years a series of products that come out using that set of kind of digital pipeline.

Real-time analytics that can inform decision making during surgery is of course what Verb Surgical CEO Scott Huennekens hopes will be one of the key differentiators between his company’s surgical platform and all others.

It will be interesting to see how the concept of real-time analytics takes form in actual surgical cases, and who does it better than the rest. Intuitive Surgical has some time. An analyst report points to 2020 as the year that Verb Surgical’s product will launch.

Photo: Getty Images, Hero Images