- Intuitive Surgical has already experienced disruptions to procedures and delays to new system placements as a result of the novel coronavirus, with the robotic surgery giant now expecting potential material strain as the pandemic widens, it said in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday.
- The company said guidance in recent days from the U.S. Surgeon General and the American College of Surgeons advising deferral of elective procedures could be another catalyst for business disruption. Additional pandemic-driven challenges include travel restrictions that may inhibit access to customers, closures of its own facilities and those of suppliers and contract manufacturers, as well as reduced or delayed capital spending by hospitals in response to a potential global economic recession.
- Intuitive declined to predict financial impact from COVID-19, but said it will "provide additional information" on its first quarter earnings call, scheduled for April 16.
Intuitive said the disruptions it's felt to date in China, Korea, Taiwan and Italy "do not represent a material portion of our current procedure volume."
But over half of Intuitive's robots installed worldwide are in the U.S., and volumes in Europe edge out those in Asia, per an investor presentation earlier this year. One of Intuitive's goals for 2020 had been to expand the types of procedures it offered in Asia and the EU.
In Intuitive's most critical U.S. market, infections are rising and rapid implementation of mitigation strategies more tangibly threatens the company's goals for the year.
During its most recent earnings call in January, Intuitive forecast between 13% and 16% worldwide procedure growth for 2020. This past weekend, the U.S. Surgeon General echoed an American College of Surgeons recommendation that healthcare providers "thoughtfully review all scheduled elective procedures with a plan to minimize, postpone, or cancel electively scheduled operations, endoscopies, or other invasive procedures" until the outbreak is better under control.
Many of Intuitive's general surgery, urology, and gynecology procedures could fall under that guidance.
"[W]e anticipate that the procedure volume and system placement disruption will expand as the COVID-19 outbreak intensifies globally," the company said in the SEC filing.
Most major medtechs have been in wait-and-see mode since offering forecasts during January and February financial reports. At the time, several companies acknowledged possible supply chain disruptions and elective procedure cancellations in China, but they did not take into account a serious threat to core U.S. businesses.