How St. Elizabeth Healthcare scaled its robotic surgery service line: 5 strategy insights


Since launching its da Vinci robotic surgery program in 2009, Edgewood, Ky.-based St. Elizabeth Healthcare has completed more than 12,000 procedures and is continuing to expand and scale its offerings.

During a March 3 webinar hosted by Becker's Hospital Review and sponsored by Intuitive, St. Elizabeth Healthcare leadership discussed the strategy behind their da Vinci robotic surgery initiatives and growth over the past decade, most of which has taken place in the last three years.

The presenters were:

  • Susan McDonald, vice president and chief nursing officer at St. Elizabeth Healthcare
  • David Vine, director of perioperative business operations at St. Elizabeth Healthcare

Five key takeaways:

1. Despite starting robotic surgeries more than a decade ago, St. Elizabeth hadn't introduced innovations to the program for several years, Ms. McDonald said. She added that the health system started to get requests from surgeons for fourth generation da Vinci technology, which prompted St. Elizabeth to attend an Enrich program at Orlando Health to learn from their peers how to evaluate a robotics program and potential opportunities for enhancement.

2. After returning from Orlando Health's program, St. Elizabeth completed four tasks to expand its robotics program: analyzed the length of stay cost and quality of its robotic procedures compared to open laparoscopic procedures; brought in the X and Xi da Vinci surgical systems for the surgeons to try out; held internal meetings and strategic meetings with senior leaders and Intuitive to discuss a strategic plan; and developed a business plan to transform its program.

3. St. Elizabeth formed a data sharing agreement with Intuitive to assist with data analysis and generating room setups as well cost savings related to supplies and instruments.

"By doing so, we realized a number of benefits, which included custom analysis on some of our strategic priorities like reducing open surgery, lowering length of stay and quantifying the value of our da Vinci program based on quality operational and financial metrics compared to open and laparoscopic surgery," Ms. McDonald said.

4. The health system's robotics investments over the past few years have been driven by its overall mission and the quadruple aim, which consists of higher quality outcomes, increased patient experience, lower cost of care and improving the provider experience.

"We've demonstrated how much our robotics investment supports our mission —patients who would normally have an open procedure, they have less pain, fewer complications and less blood loss after having a da Vinci robotic procedure," Mr. Vine said. 

5. After analyzing their open surgery data, St. Elizabeth is focused on robotic procedural growth opportunities in colorectal, thoracic, acute care and hepato-pancreatic-biliary surgeries. And while the health system is focused on cancer prevention, Mr. Vine said robotics will continue to be a key part of its strategy to treat cancer patients who need surgery.

Click here to learn more about robotic surgery and view the full webinar.

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