Technology tide in Singapore Healthcare
The advent of the da Vinci surgical system in the early 2000s paved way for medical robotic advancements across the world. The SingHealth cluster, for example, has been using da Vinci robot for radical prostatectomy (prostate gland removal), nephrectomy (kidney removal), and pyeloplasty (repair of narrowed ureters), amongst others using minimally invasive surgical technique. Other applications of da Vinci include and not limited to oncology procedures, cardiac valve repairs, gastrointestinal and gynecological procedures, and various other applications. A minimal invasive surgery results in smaller incision wounds, lower blood loss, lesser pain, faster recovery and improved quality of life for patients. Lower blood lost reduces the need for transfusion and faster recovery results in much lesser hospital days, bed occupancy, number of follow ups, medications and hence lowers the overall cost burden on the hospital. Robotic surgery, remotely controlled by surgeon, provides better vision and tissue dissection from a magnified view.
Robotic technology is moving beyond assisting in difficult surgical procedures to patient diagnostics, and planning and administrating a wide range of medical treatments and applications such as imaging systems, radiation therapies, patient positioning, and others. Due to the speed, efficiency, and accurate precision that robots offer to the healthcare industry, medical technology has emerged as one of the promising markets in Singapore. However medical robotics is a top-heavy market with leaders having prominent expertise and large patent libraries for their technologies. Such market leaders
offer significant barriers (in terms of brand image, expanding technology, clinical evidence, and established connections with renowned international hospitals) to new and upcoming participants entering the market. So far, only a few start-up ventures across the world have been able to bring their products to market.
And 2017 was an important year for Singapore as a medical robotics start up, EndoMaster gained global attention. Singapore’s commitment to drive the market through agencies such as the Centre for Healthcare Assistive and Robotics Technologies (CHART) and the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research & Technology (SMART) Innovation Centre, as well as PhD scholarships in medical robotics courses is incubating the market for future advancements.
Singapore presents good opportunity for medical robotic technology as vendors, universities and government agencies are focused on developing next-generation surgical robotic systems for various medical disciplines in terms of sensing, vision, or even instrument manipulation for precision in surgery. There is a promising future for medical robots in various other surgical disciplines, from neurosurgery to radiosurgery, including ENT, orthopedics, aesthetic surgeries, pediatrics and implant surgeries. The availability of better userinterfaces for human-and-robot interaction and the improvement in haptic technology will enable medical robots to penetrate unexplored fields. There is a market opportunity for medical robotic technology in remote patient care and monitoring, patient autonomy as well as in improving clinical workflow within the hospital.
Singapore has a great potential to progress forward in exploring new and groundbreaking technologies to support the development of medical robot and revolutionize the way care is delivered in this part of the world.
Shalani Andria, Industry Analyst, Transformational Health, Asia Pacific at Frost & Sullivan