Robotic-assisted surgery has rapidly become a surgical treatment of choice internationally – surgeries are more precise and less invasive; recovery times are shorter, and complications are minimised, writes Wendy Bussey, Business Development at Turnberry Management Risk Solutions.
Where applications for this type of surgery were limited in the past, we are now seeing a greater variety of procedures available, with increasing use and growing applications. However, while it offers numerous benefits, the cost of the surgery is higher than that of more traditional methods, which means that typically, medical schemes in South Africa will not cover the full cost of procedures. To ensure that you have the option of choice when it comes to your health, having gap cover in place is essential.
Less downtime, better outcomes
Robotic-assisted surgery refers to a range of minimally invasive surgical procedures that use robotic technology to assist surgeons during complex procedures. It uses a console where the surgeon sits and controls the robotic arms that hold surgical instruments and a camera. The camera delivers high-definition 3D visualisation of the surgical site, which gives more detail and enhanced depth perception for extreme precision.
The instruments are more dextrous than the human hand with greater articulation and can even compensate for any minor tremors in the surgeon’s hands, which is especially important for delicate and intricate procedures. Compared to traditional open surgery, or even laparoscopic surgery, robotic-assisted surgery involves much smaller incisions, which reduces pain and blood loss, lowers the risk of infection and complications, and often results in quicker recovery and shorter hospital stays for patients, as well as less scarring.
The instruments are more dextrous than the human hand with greater articulation and can even compensate for any minor tremors in the surgeon’s hands, which is especially important for delicate and intricate procedures.
A growing range of applications
One of the most performed robotic-assisted surgeries is a prostatectomy, but the use of this technique has expanded far beyond this procedure. In South Africa, robotic-assisted surgery is available at a number of private hospitals, and procedures available include cardiothoracic, colorectal, knee, prostate and urogynaecological operations. In the Western Cape, there are also two governmental hospitals that offer robotic-assisted surgeries on certain procedures.
However, the robots themselves are costly, and surgeons require specific and specialised training in each and every procedure to become proficient. As a result, while robotic-assisted surgery can reduce overall hospital time, the procedures themselves are typically far more expensive than traditional surgery. Medical schemes therefore will pay a global fee for a robotic-assisted procedure, meaning they will pay a set amount and anything over and above this amount will need to be paid out of pocket by the patient. This cost can be a factor for people who need surgery but cannot necessarily afford to make use of the latest technologies.
While robotic-assisted surgery can reduce overall hospital time, the procedures themselves are typically far more expensive than traditional surgery.
Give yourself the choice
While robotic-assisted surgery is making its way into the state healthcare system, this is extremely limited at present and is far from being available at a Prescribed Minimum Benefit level. This means that, for the foreseeable future, any robotic procedure will result in significant medical expense shortfalls.
Gap cover that includes sub-limit cover will pay for the shortfall, covering the difference between what the procedure costs and what medical aids will pay. This gives you the option to choose the minimally invasive procedure with the shorter recovery time and improved outcomes, allowing you to get back on your feet sooner without the added stress of increased financial burden. Speak to your broker or financial advisor to find the best gap cover solution to meet your needs.
Photo: Pavel Danilyuk