Intuitive Surgical (NASDAQ:ISRG) CEO Gary Guthart had a good story to tell at this year's J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference. The robotic surgical system company's stock is up more than 20% over the past 12 months. Several numbers Guthart highlighted in his presentation explain why Intuitive Surgical has been so successful -- and a few point to potentially bright days ahead.

Image source: Intuitive Surgical.

4 million

Intuitive Surgical first introduced its da Vinci robotic surgical system back in 1999. Since then, the system has been used for over 4 million surgeries across the world. Guthart noted that four generations of the da Vinci system have been launched over the years.


Perhaps even more impressive is that 750,000 surgeries were performed with the da Vinci system in 2016 alone. To put this figure into perspective, Intuitive Surgical reported 652,000 procedures performed with the system in 2015. The company's 2016 total reflected 15% growth. That's not bad at all for technology that isn't the new kid on the block anymore.


Guthart said that roughly 85% of prostatectomies in the U.S. were performed with da Vinci based on 2013 data. This shows just how far Intuitive Surgical has come in a relatively short period of time. Just 10 years earlier, only 5% prostatectomies in the U.S. were performed with any type of minimally invasive surgery.


But does use of the admittedly costly da Vinci system actually help lower healthcare costs? Gary Guthart would argue that it does. He cited research showing that use of da Vinci reduces prostatectomy hospital length of stay by an average of 1.7 days versus open surgery.


Intuitive Surgical wouldn't have achieved such success over the years without buy-in from the medical community. One important reason that adoption of its technology has increased is the more than 11,000 peer-reviewed publications on the company's robotic surgical systems.


Recurring revenue is a beautiful thing. It's especially beautiful for Intuitive Surgical. Guthart said the company generated 71% of its total revenue last year from recurring revenue sources such as instruments, accessories, and services. How great is this number? Consider that Intuitive Surgical is able to cover all of its operating expenses and still make a tidy profit even if it doesn't sell a single new system.


Intuitive Surgical grew its revenue by 13% in 2016 compared to the prior year.  That's solid growth. And although Guthart didn't specify how much the company projects 2017 revenue growth will be, procedure volume is expected to grow by 9% to 12%.


Any headwinds?

Guthart said the company encountered some challenges last year in parts of Europe. Those headwinds could persist into 2017.

Perhaps the biggest wild card is the changing political scene in Washington, D.C. Obamacare is likely to be repealed, but it's uncertain exactly what will replace it. If hospitals tighten their purse strings in anxious anticipation of a potential negative revenue impact from macro healthcare system changes, it could hurt Intuitive Surgical.

However, the company's continued focus on expanding into additional surgical procedures and maximizing its value proposition to customers should pay off over the long run -- and probably the short run, too. I expect Intuitive Surgical to achieve even more impressive numbers in 2017.