In Englewood, Colorado, SCA Health affiliate Dry Creek Surgery Center is continuing to advance its ability to provide patient care through the latest advancements in technology. In 2021, Dry Creek Surgery Center acquired the da Vinci Surgical System. This acquisision, made it the first ambulatory surgery center (ASC) in the state to provide robot-assisted, minimally invasive surgery. As of early 2023, it remains the only location to boast the service.
The Need for Robotics
Two years ago, Sarah Verretta, CEO of Dry Creek Surgery Center, was searching for new ways to engage Denver area physicians. It was during this time that the concept of acquiring the technology came to light.
“I had been searching for a general surgeon to join our ASC for some time, but wasn’t having any luck,” Verretta said. “I was trying to understand what we may have been missing in order to bring in someone new, and I was repeatedly being asked, ‘Do you have a robot?’”
The question reinforced a now common point amongst surgeons, who are being trained as fellows on robotic systems in favor of traditional laparoscopy techniques. As a result, many prefer the latest technology to provide care to their patients. Verretta began looking into available options and was led to market leader Intuitive Surgical and their da Vinci system. Dry Creek currently owns the XI model of the system, a 4-arm port robot specializing in general surgery, such as hernia repairs and gall bladder removals. The robot also supports urology and gynecology surgery, which Dry Creek plans to expand into soon.
Dry Creek obtained the system on June 21st, 2021. Their first robotic-assisted general surgery case was completed on July 28, 2021. The da Vinci robot has assisted in 361 procedures as of January 9th, 2023.
Benefits of the system are widespread. According to multiple research studies, patients see shorter recovery times due to smaller incisions. Additionally, they experience a reduced risk of complication in comparison to traditional laparoscopic and open approaches of surgical procedures. Moreover, many patients and physicians report that patients also need fewer narcotics following their procedure. This helps to reduce the ongoing opioid epidemic sweeping the nation.
“Most of our surgeons will prescribe less than 5-10 pills to patients,” Verretta said. “Most of the time it will be just a few pills and some Tylenol or Advil, and they will send the patients on their way. It has been common that patients don’t even need all the narcotics and primarily use Advil throughout their recovery.”
The robot’s ability to provide improved visualization allows for more precise and deliberate movements, a key benefit for surgeons.
“With the da Vinci system we’ve seen gastrectomy procedures, which used to take four to five hours, now take roughly an hour,” Verretta said. “It’s incredible because doctors aren’t directly over the patient, they are sitting at the console moving the sticks and seeing what’s happening. It’s like a playing a video game.”
Along with the advanced robotics, Dry Creek also offers significant cost savings to patients and payors due to its place as an ASC. As a fast growing alternative to a traditional hospital setting, ASCs provide specialty care in a smaller and safer environment. ASCs result in a average cost savings of $684 per procedure for patients, according to healthcarefinancenews.com.
“Up until July 2021, a lot of these procedures had to be done in an inpatient hospital setting,” said Geoff Burgess, Director of Operations for SCA Health. “Procedures were coming at a higher cost to payors and patients due to not being in an ASC setting. We wanted to be able to provide the highest possible standard of patient care using the latest technology in an outpatient setting, which made this purchase a smart decision.”
Thoughts From the Physicians
Jeffrey Harr, M.D. a physician at Dry Creek Surgery Center, added that changes in approach from payors continue to increase the value and importance of the ASC setting.
“Hospitals charge much more for these services without any improvement in outcomes or quality of care,” Harr said. “For these reasons, insurance companies are now denying authorizations for certain surgeries to be performed in a hospital setting. Another benefit is the accessibility. In the current health care environment, there remains a significant shortage of nurses and operating room staff, stressing hospital systems. Performing outpatient surgeries at an ASC off-loads these hospitals allowing for more urgent/emergent or complex cases to be performed in the hospital setting. Lastly, the personalized care and quality of staff at ASC’s tend to exceed those at hospitals. Patients are treated less like “numbers” or “cases”, and more as individuals.”
The distinction as the first, and currently only, ASC in Colorado with robotic assisted general surgery, is one that staff and surgeons at Dry Creek Surgery Center wear with pride. Many at Dry Creek Surgery Center believe that the Da Vinci platform is only the beginning.
“I foresee a continued increasing role for robotic surgery in the future given its safety and ability to facilitate complicated maneuvers within the human body,” said Kian Modanlou, M.D., a physician at Dry Creek Surgery Center. “These two benefits are enabling surgeons to move increasing numbers of operations to the outpatient setting where increased efficiencies and decreased costs benefit both the patient and the payer. This technology is truly novel in that it helps to create increased value in healthcare.”
To learn more about SCA Health, visit SCA.health.
To learn more about Intuitive’s da Vinci Surgical System, click here.