The Association Between Diffusion of the Surgical Robot and Radical Prostatectomy Rates

A study to determine the relationship between the acquisition of surgical robots and the amount of radical prostatectomy (RP) procedures in hospitals and regions found increased performance of RPs in hospitals and regions that had surgical robots.

Surgical robots, despite being expensive and of questionable benefit, are often used to treat prostate cancer. The authors examined RP procedures for prostate cancer at hospitals in seven states, measuring the number of RPs conducted within hospitals and regions in 2001 and 2005, before and after the robot was disseminated.

By 2005, 51 percent of hospital referral regions (HRRs) had at least one hospital with a surgical robot, and 12 percent of hospitals had at least one robot. HRRs with more hospitals with robots had a higher increase in RPs than HRRs with no robots. Hospitals with surgical robots increased RPs by an average of 29.1 each year, while hospitals without robots decreased RPs by an average of 4.8.

The way surgical technology is diffused can limit access to procedures in some areas while creating supply-induced demand for those procedures in others. Policy-makers should understand the relationship between technology dissemination and the use of procedures, and patients should know that the availability of surgical technology increases the likelihood that they will undergo surgery.