In the September 7, 2017 issue of Medtech Insight, Scott Rader, founder and leader of the Healthcare Solutions team at Stratasys, along with Clemens Moeller and Christophe Durand of the Boston Consulting Group, explores the benefits of 3D printed devices and how they are driving the adoption of the technology. They also assess how fast this evolution is happening and evaluate how – and in which biomedical applications and device markets – 3D printing could best enhance products and allow medtech manufacturers to grow their businesses.
Medical applications for 3D printing
Medical applications for 3D printing are expanding rapidly and are gradually revolutionizing the delivery of health care. 3D printing is emerging as an efficient and cost effective manufacturing option for customized medical devices such as dental implants, hearing aids, knee implants, surgical instruments, prosthesis and many more. It is poised to disrupt the medical device market by encouraging new entrants, enabling precision planning for surgeries, optimizing device design and development, increasing productivity, reducing cost, and ultimately revolutionizing the standard of care.
By making products that cannot be manufactured in any other way, 3D printing has the potential to revolutionize the standard of care by addressing previously unmet needs. 3D printing has already had a transformative effect on hearing aid manufacturing. Today, 99% of hearing aids that fit into the ear are custom-made using 3D printing. Everyone’s ear canal is shaped differently, and the use of 3D printing allows custom-shaped devices to be produced efficiently and cost-effectively.
With 3D printing we will see more products being made directly at the point-of-care, possibly accelerating treatment and reducing the number of visits for patients. 3D printing can also offer less costly alternatives to standard treatments, making advanced medical treatment more widely accessible. For example, patients who have multiple chronic diseases could have their medications printed in one multi–dose form that is fabricated at the point of care. Providing patients with an accurate, personalized dose of multiple medications in a single tablet could potentially improve patient compliance.
Planning Surgery through 3D Printing
As a patient-customized, on-demand solution, 3D printed medical models can lead to mutual benefits for patients, providers and payers. Patient-specific models created through 3D printing have enormous potential to assist clinicians in planning successful surgeries. They can help surgeons make the right decisions up front by determining the feasibility of a procedure, selecting the appropriate surgical approach, and practicing the procedure in a risk-free environment. From a patient perspective, this can translate into a faster recovery and better outcome. Providers benefit from cost savings through reduced operating room time and hospital bed utilization, directly impacting profit margins where reimbursement rates are fixed for a given procedure.
A recent study shows that patients who experience surgical complications have 119% higher hospital costs than patients without complications, and payers’ reimbursement costs are 106% higher. The benefits of improved surgical planning are clear.
The medical advances that have been made using 3D printing are already significant and exciting. As 3D-printing technologies become more sophisticated and new materials become available, the authors project that we will see even more novel applications emerge such as bio-printed assays for research and drug testing, complex implantable organs, and 3D-printed drugs and drug delivery devices. The authors conclude:
“3D printing has the potential to dramatically change the future of medicine in the long term.”
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