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Leadership Blog

Moving the Needle on Robotic Surgical Care

By Monte Bostwick, Market CEO/President, St. Luke’s Health–East Texas

July 24, 2023 Posted in: Leadership


St. Luke’s Health (SLH)–Memorial Lufkin, an accredited Surgical Review Corporation (SRC) Center of Excellence, was the first hospital in Texas to acquire the da Vinci Surgical System. Today, we continue to lead the region in providing advanced, minimally invasive surgical care to our patients.

Mastering the Art of Robotic Precision

Serving a large East Texas market, we have brought top-notch care closer to home. Through the implementation of the da Vinci Xi System, we have expanded upon the core features of the da Vinci system, enabling efficient access throughout the abdomen or chest. This cutting-edge technology contains wristed instruments, 3D-HD visualization, intuitive motion and an ergonomic design that greatly enhances the capabilities of our surgical procedures.

The robotic surgery success at SLH is best exemplified by the positive outcomes we have achieved. Our hospital has witnessed a significant increase in successful procedures, particularly in complex gynecology cases involving uterine pathology and colon resection for general surgeries. The number of robotic surgery cases has surpassed laparoscopic and open surgeries, demonstrating the effectiveness and preference for this advanced approach.

Our robotics program is what drives patients to SLH for surgery because patients experience less pain, shorter hospital stays and quicker recovery compared to other surgical techniques.

A Reputation for Excellence 

Behind our accomplishments lies a dedicated team of staff and physicians committed to their roles in the surgery suite, ensuring the provision of top-tier care. Physicians regularly express their satisfaction with the exceptional staff at SLH, making it their preferred hospital for performing robotic cases. 

Collaborating with Baylor St. Luke's Medical Group and Angelina Surgical Associates, we remain steadfast in our commitment to provide the best possible care. Our renowned physicians, Dr. Darry Meyer and Dr. Alan Bassin have both surpassed 2,000 robotic surgery cases using the da Vinci Surgical System, solidifying their expertise in the field. Among our dedicated and experienced hospital staff, we’re also proud to have Carlos Solorzano, CST, CSFA. Solorzano is recognized as a leader in allied care by the SRC—an acknowledgment of his remarkable contributions. 

Our commitment to excellence is evident, and while other facilities also offer robotic-assisted surgical programs, SLH stands out as a model of success, prompting inquiries from physicians, including those from our competitors. Our physicians have been approached to provide coverage in other areas, which shows how distinct our robotics program is. The caliber of our team is of a level comparable to only a couple in the state of Texas. 

A large part of our success also comes from the prioritization we place on communication. We consistently involve the entire surgery department to keep everyone informed, engaged and acutely focused on the patients we serve. It’s not just one or two team members involved in the communication process, it’s the entire surgery department as a whole. We hold each other to a higher standard in robotics. Our goal is to make sure each member of the team is working safely, efficiently and proficiently, setting surgeons up to complete procedures in a timely manner. 

Cutting Costs, Preserving Patient Satisfaction

Determining the return on our investment in robotic systems required a careful analysis of the costs and potential savings associated with shorter hospital stays. Because robotic surgery has revolutionized patient experiences, resulting in smaller incisions, reduced pain and faster recoveries, the significant cost savings lies in the potential reduction of hospital stay for patients.

Insurance companies don’t provide increased reimbursement for robotic over laparoscopic surgery, but shortened patient hospital stays post-surgery can provide substantial savings because we are able to reduce costs on labor, equipment and patient care. 

On the Horizon: The Future of Robotics at SLH

SLH views the robotic surgery program as a growth opportunity, not only in Nacogdoches, but also in the Livingston market where SLH is located. By decreasing the number of cases leaving the area, SLH is effectively increasing the robotic market share and establishing us as having one of the premier robotic programs in Texas.

The overarching objective is to persistently enhance and refine the robotics program at SLH, which is one of the most comprehensive and sophisticated within the Texas health care division, exhibiting remarkable robustness and effectiveness. As the SLH robotics program grows, we know the excellent people in our nursing and technology leadership allow us to make sure we have the right materials at the right time and in the right place.

SLH leadership also understands the importance of communicating with and involving the physicians in our health care community. To that end, we plan to enhance our outreach efforts, particularly with primary care physicians, ensuring they are aware of the exceptional care their patients will receive at SLH. Furthermore, as part of a larger system capable of meeting diverse needs, we assure physicians that even higher levels of care are readily available.

In the immediate future, SLH is determined to build upon our success, maintaining our Center of Excellence accreditation while increasing community and public awareness. Making continuous improvement of our overall outcomes and streamlining our program for efficiency and effectiveness remain key objectives.

In the long term, SLH would like to grow the robotic program to include robotic thoracic surgeries for the lungs, particularly lobectomy and pneumonectomy. Cardiac robotic cases are likely further down the road but still on the horizon.

Our program is on track to become a premier center of excellence, which would make us among the most elite robotic programs in Texas.

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