The healthcare industry is being transformed internationally by various dynamic changes, including digitalization, personalization, and internationalization. Robotic surgery is an advanced form of minimally invasive surgery (MIS). The care and treatment of prostate cancer, stomach disorders, urological procedures, hysterectomy, and mitral valve repair, all conducted by specialists, have been transformed by improving the accuracy of operations and reducing patients’ recovery time. Robotic-assisted surgery is a method that helps surgeons to perform complicated surgical procedures with greater precision, flexibility, and command than traditional techniques.
Robotic surgery allows surgeons to conduct minimally invasive surgery with an innovative range of equipment, a 3D-High Definition (3D-HD) vision system, and a 10-fold magnification system. For example, recently in January 2021, for its robotic-assisted orthopedic surgical interface for complete knee replacements, Johnson & Johnson’s DePuy Synthes division has obtained FDA approval. CyberKnife, the first platform to be approved by the FDA in September 2010 is a noninvasive robot useful in image-guided therapy.
Miniature in-vivo robot is an innovative approach along with the MIS surgical platform inserted into the peritoneal cavity. The device is built by Virtual Incision and Center for Advanced Surgical Technology (CAST). It has two arms with infinite functionalities and several joints for unlimited flexibility.
The Aer-O-Scope is an Israeli self-propelled colonoscope that uses carbon dioxide without the need for additional pressing to move across the colon up to the cecum. It is an example of robotic endoscopy.
Scenario in the United Arab Emirates
Robotic surgery in the UAE region is experiencing significant growth. Robotic surgery has revolutionized the way surgery is being conducted. Today many hospitals in Saudi Arabia as well have adopted this technique. Healthcare in the UAE alone has seen an increase in demand for innovative robotics procedures in the Middle East. It is projected to see more growth as public and private healthcare spending and patient awareness rise. Digital transformation and Artificial intelligence are constant components of a government’s ability in the UAE to support long-term growth in today’s rapidly evolving environment. Surgeons using the robotic system claim that it increases accuracy, flexibility, and command during the surgery and helps them see the site better than conventional methods. The surgeon handles instruments attached to mechanical arms during robotic operations, obtaining a high-definition, three-dimensional view of the surgical site. Today, emerging technology, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, robotics, and the Internet of Things characterize the scenario. Research and working prototypes have addressed a much broader range of applications over the past ten years: from nurse robotics to disinfecting robots, to endoscopic systems, all the way to snakes and nanobots capable of penetrating the human body and performing precision operations. The surge in the use of robotics can be clearly seen in the UAE.
- One of the most innovative surgical technology available is da Vinci® Surgical System, which has been adopted by the Mediclinic City Hospital (Dubai, UAE). Da Vinci robotic surgery system is a pioneering state-of-the-art technology that is recognized internationally as one of the cutting-edge systems capable of conducting laparoscopic surgery with the patient’s superior surgery experiences and results. In 2015, the hospital performed its first robotic surgery and in 2018, the first robotic “Whipple” procedure to treat pancreatic and duodenal tumors. The da Vinci Surgical System is a robotic surgery system that provides both open surgery and laparoscopy alternative with a minimally invasive solution.
- In July 2020, a robot surgeon removed a tumor weighing 5kg from the ovaries of a 44-year-old woman. The complicated surgery, performed at Sharjah’s Al Qassimi Hospital for Women and Children, used the Da Vinci Robotic surgical system that enables minimally invasive surgery with advanced instruments and a high-definition 3D view of the surgical area. More than 135 active gynecological surgeries have been performed by the Ministry of Health Prevention (MoHAP) using the da Vinci robotic technique, with the assistance of visiting consultants. Urology and gynecology techniques are commonly used for minimally invasive surgery.
- Mediclinic International’s wholly-owned subsidiary, in June 2020, has added the da Vinci Xi HD 4 arm robotic system to its Dubai Mediclinic City Hospital. The system, developed by Intuitive, is recognized as one of the most innovative laparoscopic surgical technologies available and is a part of the latest initiative aimed at expanding the group’s current comprehensive general surgery and laparoscopic surgery services. The da Vinci Xi HD 4 is not the hospital’s first foray into robotic; Mediclinic City Hospital has also provided total/partial knee replacement surgery with robotic assistance, as its pioneering venture in the robotics and healthcare in the UAE.
- In another case, a robot-assisted surgery, the first of its kind for the integrated facility, has been performed by surgeons at Abu Dhabi-based Sheikh Shakhbout Medical City (SSMC), the UAE’s largest hospital for serious and complex care and a joint venture between Mayo Clinic and Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (SEHA). In conjunction with the launch of a comprehensive robotic surgery program at the hospital, the surgery was conducted to enable and enhance minimally invasive operations and improve clinical results.
Some of the initiatives by the United Arab Emirates Government
- The Emirates Health Services Corporation is very much keen on using the new robots to perform surgeries, and has been doing its utmost to double its artificial intelligence achievements. This is in line with the UAE Government’s wise directives aimed at being a hub for the introduction of AI (Artificial Intelligence) into health services in the Middle East for robotic surgery.
- In 2014, the Ministry of Health and Prevention announced the launch of the first robot for catheterization and cardiac surgery through computerized systems. The device was installed to conduct the first surgery in June 2014 in the Al Qasimi Hospital.
- The Gynecology and Obstetrics Robotic Surgeries Program was initiated in April 2019 by the Ministry of Health and Prevention. The launching came in the wake of the successful use of the robot in heart surgery, owing to its ability to reach the most complex areas of the human body, combined with high precision due to the robotic arm’s firmness during the process.
What the future holds?
The cost of a robotic procedure varies, so does the insurance coverage. Due to the constant efforts by the UAE government, laparoscopic surgeries are now majorly being covered by most insurances at Mediclinic City Hospital, it is also expected that insurers will study the patient benefits and cover robotic procedures in the foreseeable future.
Despite da Vinci device’s steep cost, there is a special emphasis by the Ministry of Health, which strengthens the global leadership of the UAE in the number of health facilities accredited. The Al Qassimi Hospital in Sharjah has been recognized by the Joint Commission International (JCI), as a center of excellence. In terms of the number of health facilities gaining JCI international accreditation, this will further improve the leadership of the UAE worldwide.
With this historic achievement, Al Qassimi Hospital, one of the Ministry of Health and Prevention’s (MOHAP) leading health facilities medical establishments in the UAE, adds another milestone to its track record of accomplishments that will further improve its global leadership role in the area of complicated and unusual medical procedures, including robotic cardiac procedures.
According to the most important global competitiveness studies, including the internationally accredited index of health facilities, which is excellently operated and monitored by the Ministry of Health in collaboration with health authorities, the UAE is the first in the globe with 110 indicators.
MOHAP believes that the UAE has reached a new period of excellence over the last few years as part of its leadership race by rising to advanced positions in all the major metrics and reports provided by the international institutions. Due to their medical and therapeutic abilities, the Ministry of Health is very keen to make these robotic techniques prominent in the UAE, something that will bring about a qualitative change in the health and rehabilitation services.