Patients place a high level of trust into the hands of their physicians. Yet, does that same level of trust exist when those hands are being assisted by robotic technology? I have found that patients are comfortable with the increasing amount of technology that is used in care delivery, and are open to the use of vascular robotic systems – if they are informed about how they are used and the benefits they will receive from it.
Initially, patients may lack understanding about vascular robotic systems, or have preconceived notions. Therefore, it’s important to explain how the systems work and the role that they play in the procedure. A vascular robotic system, like Corindus’ CorPath, is designed to help interventional cardiologists perform percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) procedures, also known as angioplasties, with greater precision. The key is to point out that the systems do not operate autonomously. Instead, they are designed to assist with the procedure, and are controlled by skilled physicians who have a successful track record of performing traditional PCI procedures.
With a robotic system, an interventional cardiologist performs the PCI procedure from a “cockpit” rather than standing next to the patient. The cockpit is placed close enough for the physician to have verbal contact with the patient and staff. Displays within the cockpit allow the physician to better visualise the procedure, and controls enable the physician to manipulate the movement of interventional devices, such as the guidewire and balloon/stent catheters via the bedside-mounted robotic arm.
I have used the CorPath system myself and find that it benefits both patients and physicians. For example, the physicians’ ability to progress the stent with very crucial, millimeter-by-millimeter movement and place the stent with a robotic precision may reduce the likelihood of needing to place a second stent. Additionally, performing PCI procedures from the cockpit reduces the physical fatigue that I have experienced from standing and leaning over patients during traditional PCI procedures. Greater physician comfort translates into greater physician concentration during the procedure, instead of being distracted by discomfort. Patients benefit from having a physician who is comfortable enough to take the time that is necessary for them to deliver the best care possible.
Personally, I welcome the introduction of technology that will allow us to remove the threat of radiation during every procedure. Additionally, I welcome the use of technology that provides such tremendous benefits to both patients and physicians.