Yes you are quite right - it takes time to gain proficiency in any skill, even in laproscopic surgery, perhaps especially laproscopic. Robotic surgery is no different in this respect.
This learning curve scare is just the latest tactic of the nay sayers. It looks very damaging at first sight but is no more important than the learning curve of laproscopic - perhaps is not even as difficult as robotics is intuitive not counter intuitive like laproscopic.
It might frieghten off some less well informed patients, but I guess not the professional surgeons or intellegent patients. And the truth will surface very quickly. The frauds like Dr Hu will be shown up what they are.
There is no more disreputable half truth than the totally flawed report from Dr Hu who seems to have his own agenda. Is it possible that he was rejected form a robotics training course- just a thought.
This week looks like the last stand of the nay sayers.
You're right that this "learning curve" issue will not have any meaningful impact on ISRG. Notwithstanding the tempest in a teapot on this board about the subject, this is not something that was not known before. The markets reaction beyond the initial 3 hours has been to yawn.
I agree that the Hu study was deeply flawed but I don't think Hu has an anti-robotic agenda. He is in fact a very active daVinci surgeon. He may have some publicity seeking inclinations but beyond that I think he believes what he put forth in his study. My only problem with him is that he is voicing opinions he has garnered elsewhere as though the study data supports it. It doesn't
Beyond that he has made many imprecise comments that have then been picked up in unfortunate ways as headlines. For example he may feel that ISRGs marketing has driving adoption more than evidence of superior outcomes. (Most studies show COMPARABLE results for cancer control, continence and sexual function with superior results for pain, recovery time, blood loss, scarring) This marketing claim has been made before and there is certainly some truth to it. That doesn't mean that it's not a worthy technology, only that marketing is driving it's adoption rather than other aspects of it's value proposition.
Hu is also claiming that newer surgeons results may be inferior to more experienced surgeons results. Also true, as demonstrated by other studies BUT NOT HIS DATA. Examples of his opinions being picked up in unfortunate ways is the trumpeting of the results as though it was a study on robotic surgery vs Open, which it wasn't. And the repeating on this board of Hu's comment that ""it took several hundred cases before I thought I was doing really well in preserving erectile function and continence," to claim that he is recommending several hundred cases as the training standard for competency - he didn't.
I don't think that Hu has any agenda with regards to ISRG's share price. I'm not so sure that the same can be said for the folks at JAMA or possibly some of the outlets publishing this story. The timing and high profile nature of this weak study so close to earnings is somewhat suspicious to me. Why was this particular study, out of 100s, given such a high profile all of a sudden just before earnings. Why is it that we haven't seen anything like this kind of exposure for other studies? The answer may be as simple as "it's provocative". daVinci has benefited handsomely from it's high sizzle nature, perhaps this is just the backlash of that, in that a study calling this technology into question is now more newsworthy than another story supporting or announcing it.
Although I'm not happy that he is drawing "conclusions" from data that doesn't support it. I don't think Dr Hu is guilty of anything more than sloppy reporting of his study results and possibly a bit of publicity seeking.