Robotics Is the Next Big Healthcare MegaTrend

By: April 27, 2023

It’s rare that the staid, conservative healthcare sector ever sees compounded annual growth (CAGR) numbers like 21.3%, but that’s exactly the case for healthcare robotics, and it’s not all sexy surgeon robots in the operating room. It’s also this unit from McKesson (NYSE: MCK) that operates as a high-volume pharmacy processing solution.

Source: McKesson

This can fill prescriptions accurately much faster than humanly possible. That means humans can deal with more of the patient-pharmacist duties rather than scrambling trying to do it all, especially in high-volume pharmacies, like big retailers or in hospitals.

Plus, it allows patients who have outpatient surgery to get their scrips filled so they can pick them up on the way home, rather than waiting until someone gets around to getting it ready, while also dealing with a deluge of customers.

Another less sexy use of healthcare robots is doing the support work that’s so necessary in healthcare settings. Aethon has created its TUG line of robots that are configurable to a variety of support roles in a hospital, urgent care, or outpatient environment.

They can work individually or as a fleet, and they’re modular so they can be quickly repurposed for a variety of tasks without having to have humans scurrying about.

Source: Aethon

Of course, there’s also the high-profile robots that get most of the press, like the surgical theater robots from Intuitive Surgical (NASDAQ: ISRG).

As with the other robots we’ve discussed, these not only do amazing work that takes the stress off doctors and support staff, but they also come with products and support services, along with their underlying products. This is how a one-time, big-ticket purchase also has follow-on investments from customers. That makes these options very attractive to the marketplace since regular cash flow is always very attractive in a company.

Source: ASME

During the big bull market we were in, these alternative technologies got the kind of funding and access to capital that put them much closer to mainstream adoption. Now that the markets have pulled back slightly and the economy has shifted, investors have taken their money to safer harbors.

What I’m always looking for are the market’s MegaTrends, and healthcare has always been one of those, both in the US and globally. That fact hasn’t changed. ISRG, for example, continues to grow, even with the current economic headwinds. That’s what’s most encouraging.

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