In recent years, artificial intelligence (AI)-driven robotic systems have been invading the medical sector — from robotic eye doctors to robotic dentists. But despite the potential benefits and advantages of new technologies in the medical field, a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) suggested that human doctors are still better in surgery than robots.

Robotic surgeries have recently gained popularity in the field of medicine. They are often used for tumor, kidney, bladder, and prostate removals. But a team of researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine found that Human Surgeons are still better compared to AI-driven robots in carrying out operations in a shorter period of time and without mistakes.

The study

Upon reviewing almost 25,000 operations across 416 hospitals in the United States between 2006 and 2012, researchers found that robotic surgeries do not improve outcomes for patients. Additionally, the operations often take a longer time to finish.

These findings were not really what the experts have hoped for. In fact, they were optimistic that robots would be “more accurate, dexterous and quicker” compared to their human counterparts, The Telegraph noted.

Researchers also found that robotic surgeries are more expensive than human-performed operations.

According to Stanford University’s Department of Urology Associate Professor Dr. Benjamin Chung, robotic surgeries showed no “statistical difference” in the outcome or the length of hospital stay of patients, not to mention the “prolonged operative time” and the expensiveness of the procedures.

Not the right choice

Even though the operation time and costs will decrease over time, the researchers stressed that their findings showed that robot-assisted surgeries are not always the right and practical choice.

Chung said that there are indeed several advantages in using expensive and state-of-the-art equipment and technologies, but health care expenses should also be considered, Scope reported.

The researchers also acknowledged that robotics are useful in “tricky operations” such as those that need extensive internal stitching or a high-degree of delicate maneuvering.

However, human surgeons are much better at performing less technically challenging operations.

Robotic surgery remains controversial

Meanwhile, the widespread use of Robotic Surgery reportedly remains controversial. The reason? This could be due to that the lack of proof of improved outcomes and increased costs despite the extensive marketing and competition among hospitals, NewsMax Health pointed out.

Dr. In Gab Jeong from University of Ulsan College of Medicine in Seoul, Korea, also said that the huge increase in healthcare cost brought by the rise of robotic surgery can be a “significant burden on the healthcare system.” Jeung, however, recognized that the development and prevalence of robotic platforms are also helpful in patient care.

Dr. David Jayne from St. James’ University Hospital in Leeds, United Kingdom, on the other hand, said that there’s a “need for robotic systems to be competitively priced to enable advanced surgeries to be cost-effective.” While Dr. Jason D. Wright from New York’s Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons concluded that “robotic-assisted surgery exemplifies the difficulty of balancing surgical innovation with evidence-based medicine.”