Subscription model offers a flexible option to deploy robotics in the IR suite

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This advertorial is sponsored by Interventional Systems.

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, healthcare systems across the globe were forced, almost overnight, to adapt to a new reality. No corner of the healthcare landscape has been left untouched, and the ripple effects of the pandemic have changed the financial reality for care providers everywhere.

“Capital equipment sales are always a long-term process, with budgeting and approval processes,” Scott Peairs, vice president of Global Sales at Interventional Systems, tells Interventional News. “The pandemic made that worse with a diversion of capital assets towards the treatment of COVID-19 patients.”

This has prompted a realignment in the way that hospitals and healthcare facilities approach the procurement of new technologies and devices, and creates a potential hurdle to investment in cutting-edge treatment solutions. For Interventional Systems, the developer of Micromate—a table-mounted medical robot for interventional procedures—this represents a particular challenge as hospitals refocus their spending priorities, and capital expenditure on new technologies becomes more difficult.

micromate
Micromate suite

“Only equipment that was broken or was desperately needed was being purchased under the capital price,” comments Peairs, adding that since the start of the pandemic, many providers have become wary of making capital investments, seeking more flexible solutions instead. “We are starting to come out of that cycle now and hospitals are starting to get back on more of a standard capital cycle, but we are probably another year away from normal.”

As a result of this, hospitals may be missing out on the opportunity to access new technologies that will smooth workflows and improve outcomes for patients through high-quality care. To address this, Interventional Systems has sought to deliver a service that will allow hospitals to still have the opportunity to offer the innovative Micromate robotic system to their patients, albeit without the initial capital outlay that is usually involved in this kind of procurement.

“We wanted to offer a way that, if the hospital does not have the budget but wants to use a robotic system, we can offer them a subscription model,” Peairs explains. The subscription model—which Peairs says is relatively unique to the healthcare technology setting—works in a similar way to how users purchase software packages.

“Microsoft or Adobe are the best examples,” he explains. “You used to have to go and buy the software, it was loaded to a hard drive on a computer, and then you would have to go and buy an upgrade for it. The software companies have completely moved to the subscription model, where it is virtual. You get the free upgrades, it is accessible, and you can turn it on and off when you want to.”

A flexible option

One of the potential advantages of this model is, according to Peairs, the fact that healthcare providers will have the flexibility to incorporate an emerging technology into their practice, without the long-term outlay that comes with a commitment to capital expenditure on new equipment. And, with a subscription-based service, getting hold of a robotic system may be a more streamlined process, Peairs says, as the subscription may not fall into the capital expenditure category, meaning that the physician can incorporate the cost into the budget that they already control.

Scott Peairs

“The idea is that we want to give them access to it,” Peairs tells Interventional News. “They can have a system and they are not obligated for the long term, that gives the physician access to it. From there, they can explore internally if it adds value to the procedures within their facility.” Additionally, without the initial outlay of the capital cost of the system, hospitals can potentially reap the efficiency gains that can be achieved by deploying the Micromate system, quicker.

Interventional Systems offers three different subscription models that are structured depending on the volume of procedures to be performed using the robotic platform and the duration that the healthcare provider wishes to sign up to. The centre pays a fixed amount per month, which covers the disposable components that are needed for each procedure, as well as software updates that may occur during the subscription time and technical assistance during the first cases.

As these core services are essential, they are covered within each of the three packages on offer, however, customers can opt to get access to more whenever needed, and have the option to upgrade or downgrade their subscription at any time. Furthermore, the system requires no preventive maintenance and the customer pays for service only outside warranty, and when needed. “To go back to the Microsoft analogy—it updates itself, you do not have to do service, you do not have to do training—it is all included in that subscription,” says Peairs.

Setup and training are also important aspects of the provision, which are delivered to clients at the outset of the subscription. Interventional Systems offers service support to troubleshoot any issues that may arise, and can centrally access the system via a remote interface. If hardware repairs are needed, Interventional Systems offers a “swap-out” facility whereby faulty components are replaced to reduce downtime.

Learning curve

As Micromate is a system that can be used in a number of different procedures on different organs, Interventional Systems says that there are several factors that will affect how long it may take to master the system. “A lot of it depends upon the type of procedure that they are doing,” says Peairs, adding that learning to use the platform in lung, kidney or liver tissues—the primary interventional radiology target areas—may have different requirements. From experience, and though it changes from physician to physician and centre to centre, five procedures is generally a good rule of thumb for getting to grips with the system, that he describes as a “third arm” for the operator.

“Some of the interventional radiologists have told us that they would use it on the hard cases because that is where they would think they would have the need,” Peairs adds, commenting on the learning curve involved in mastering the robot. “Now the mindset has shifted and several of them have told us that they are going to use it on every case, even the simplest of biopsies, because of its fast setup.

“They want to use it on easy cases so the staff know the workflows and the setup using the robot, so that once they get to the hard cases that is not a stressor. I really see that is where a subscription model is going to help, because it is going to allow them to use it on all cases,” he says.

The subscription model will be available to Interventional Systems’ customers in the USA and Europe from Autumn 2022.


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