Reimbursement of robotic surgery expected to increase in Asia

Reimbursement of robotic surgery expected to increase in Asia

Reimbursement and the affordability of digital health technologies, such as robotic surgery are key factors influencing the uptake of the technology. To bring robotic surgery to more hospitals and patients, addressing cost-related challenges is crucial. The high costs of robotic surgery equipment remains a key deterrent for mid-sized and smaller hospitals in investing in the technology; while the high out-of-pocket costs of robotic surgery are a major barrier for many patients in Asia due to limited reimbursement for robot-assisted procedures.

Reimbursement of robotic surgery expected to increase in Asia

There is limited reimbursement available for robotic surgery in Asia. In most countries, while traditional joint replacement surgery is covered under various public and private health insurance schemes, there is limited to no coverage for robot-assisted surgery. 

Reimbursement of robot-assisted surgery can also be uneven across therapeutic areas. In Japan, patient reimbursement for robot-assisted procedures in orthopaedics is limited compared with surgery areas such as urology.

There is potential for increased reimbursement for robotic surgery as the benefits of the technology become recognised. Some payers are already expanding coverage for robot-assisted procedures. China has been expanding coverage for robotic surgery with reimbursement schemes introduced in several cities including Beijing for orthopaedic surgery in late 2021.

Increasing access and affordability of robotic surgery in Asia 

The low level of reimbursement for robotic-assisted surgery may leave such procedures out of reach for many patients for now, making a hospital’s capital purchase of robotic surgery equipment less feasible. 

However, with surgical device manufacturers exploring new financing models for surgical robots, and developing more affordable technology, this could change. Asian companies such as South Korea’s Meerecompany and Chinese company Tinavi have entered the robotic surgery market, providing more options for hospitals in Asia. Tinavi has launched an orthopaedic robotic surgery system that is less costly than international brands. Orthopaedic surgeries assisted with Tinavi’s robot are also covered by Beijing’s reimbursement scheme.

The future of the robotic surgery market in Asia-Pacific

Reimbursement can have a significant impact on the uptake of robotic surgery in Asia. Clearstate expects robot-assisted procedures for prostatectomy to grow by more than an average of 20% annually in the forecast period of 2020 to 2025 in countries such as Indonesia. Robot-assisted knee replacement surgeries will increase by more than 30% annually in India in the same forecast period.

As reimbursement policies continue to strengthen the healthcare system to support the expansion of robotic surgery adoption, there are opportunities for surgical device companies to work with hospitals and payers to develop affordable and accessible options for robotic surgery.

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