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Operations in China will soon be performed by American doctors in Texas, via robots

AP Photo/The Springfield News-Leader, Dean Curtis
A doctor stands next to the Da Vinci Surgical System robotic surgical machine in Springfield, Mo.
By Jake Maxwell Watts
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

A new partnership between two hospitals in China and the US will soon have Chinese patients on an operating table with a robot standing over them. At the controls will be a US doctor in Texas.

The Shenzhen People’s Hospital in China and the Methodist Hospital in Houston have agreed to work together to allow surgical operations to be performed remotely using advanced robotics, reports the Shenzhen Economic News. Staff from Shenzen will fly to Houston this year for training; a start date for remote robotic surgeries has not been set.

Both hospitals have some experience of robotics already. The Methodist Hospital has four working robots and the Shenzhen People’s Hospital conducted its first robotic operation on a human in 2004, although surgical procedures performed from the US will be a new test. The Shenzhen hospital president told the People’s Daily at the time that robots can be far superior to humans. “Besides the high accuracy, a robot arm will easily reach areas where human arms cannot,” he said.

Despite the undeniable wow factor, it’s unclear how robot doctors will be much help to China’s struggling healthcare system. Its hospitals are already struggling with mounting costs and patients who are unable to cover their share of expenses (roughly one-third of total costs). Robot surgeons cost about $1.5 million a piece.

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