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3D Printing Enhances and Expands Opportunities in Medical Applications

December 6, 2017 5:46 am

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.

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.

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.