In 2010, minimally invasive robotic procedures were revolutionizing surgery, offering patients faster healing, shorter hospital stays and better overall experiences.
Newton Medical Center medical staff member Kent Bradley, MD, an OB/GYN, viewed the technology as transformative in his specialty, particularly gynecologic surgeries. Minimally invasive, or robotic surgery allows physicians to make just a few small incisions and perform procedures using a high level of magnification and a camera to guide tiny “robotic” arms that perform the physical aspect of the surgery. Robotics offer surgeons better vision, precision, and control.
Looking forward, Dr. Bradley wanted to make sure NMC, his area colleagues and his patients were well-positioned along that path to the future.
“I went to Steve Kelly, the CEO at the time, along with Val Gleason (NMC current CEO) and told them that robotics was the future of gynecologic surgery,” Dr. Bradley recalls, “and that a robot was something they should strongly consider for purchase for the hospital.”
Dr. Bradley’s recommendation fell on willing ears. Not only did NMC leadership consider it, but within a year, the hospital had purchased the state-of-the-art da Vinci® (robotic) Surgical System, becoming just the fifth — and by far the smallest — hospital in Kansas to offer the capability.
“Although it seemed the hospital moved quickly with the acquisition, it was done after serious study and extensive research,” says Gleason. “When we polled our surgeons, every surgeon recommended the acquisition and every surgeon who would have been eligible to use the robot committed to personally investing the significant time and effort that would be required to learn to use it.”
On Feb. 1, 2011, surgeons debuted the system, performing three ear, nose and throat procedures, followed the next day with two gynecologic surgeries. And the demand has continued. Over the past seven years, 1,575 procedures have been performed using the da Vinci system at NMC, changing the entire surgical experience for professionals and patients.
“The patient length of stay is the most significant change we have seen with the robotic system,” says Connie Smet, NMC robotic/GYN coordinator. “An abdominal hysterectomy could have meant three- to-five days in the hospital before, but now through this minimally invasive approach, patients can go home the same day or the next morning.”
Acquiring the da Vinci Surgical System meant revising many different surgical policies and procedures and intensive training for surgeons, anesthesiologists, the operating room staff and others. Today, gynecologic procedures at NMC are the most commonly performed using the robot, followed by general surgery and urology, all specialties that the hospital’s leadership could foresee would benefit with the purchase of the system.
“We could see the potential transformative nature of robotically-assisted surgery for both patient outcomes and surgeon technical acumen and satisfaction,” says Gleason. “Robotic surgery is now indeed the gold standard for certain surgeries, such as radical prostatectomy. We knew that if the physicians wanted to adopt robotics and recommend its use to their patients, NMC would need to provide this level of expertise. ”
In addition to all other benefits, the availability of the da Vinci capability speaks to a key tenet of NMC’s philosophy — advanced medicine right in the community.
“We knew that in order to absolutely preserve services within NMC, we had to offer robotics to our astute community,” Gleason says. “Not every hospital in Kansas is fortunate to have a robot. We are very fortunate that we had the ability to invest in da Vinci robotics. And we are very lucky that we had a skilled and progressive surgeon community. Our surgeons were willing to make the personal sacrifice of time and effort to learn how to use the robot.”
For Dr. Bradley, who has served as the Robotics Committee Chairman since the day of the purchase, the time and effort have more than paid off.
“This has allowed us to do things we were never able to do before,” he says. “We can keep more patients here where they want to be and offer them the most advanced technology available.”