May 17, 2020

How accessible 3D printing can improve quality of life

3D Printing
healthcare services
healthcare services
​​​​​​​Siert Wijnia, CTO and C...
4 min
3D printing - Elizabeth Tilburg
Recent updates to the Worldwide Semiannual 3D Printing Spending Guide from International Data Corporation (IDC) indicate that global spending on 3D prin...

Recent updates to the Worldwide Semiannual 3D Printing Spending Guide from International Data Corporation (IDC) indicate that global spending on 3D printing (including hardware, materials, software, and services) is set to grow to $12.0 billion in 2018 - an increase of 19.9% over 2017.

After discrete manufacturing, healthcare providers will represent the second largest industry sector, with an expected total spend of nearly $1.3 billion in 2018.

However, healthcare professionals have already made a huge impact on people’s lives through 3D printing, without spending significant sums of money. The following are some inspiring 3D print initiatives for World Health Day, from life-changing printed objects, to simple, yet powerful solutions that help to make hospitalised time just a little bit better.

3D printing prosthetic limbs for refugees

In early 2018, the inspiring story of Doctors Without Borders provided significant food for thought. Pierre Moreau, the clinical coordinator of the 3D Project for Doctors Without Borders in Jordan, volunteered at a reconstructive-surgery hospital where war-wounded patients from Syria, Iraq and Yemen received treatment. As civilians, most of them had suffered amputations resulting from the regional conflicts.

In the video, Moreau explains some of the challenges associated with conventional prosthetics, including a high degree of time, cost, and skilled professionals. However, as the raw materials used to produce a prosthetic arm cost less than 30 USD, using 3D printing to create a prosthesis is significantly cheaper.

A prosthetic arm consists of a socket, forearm, and hand. The socket is the interface between the stump and the prosthesis. Both the socket and the hand are printed with a flexible type of plastic, called Polyurethane, to match the patient’s anatomy, and give them a greater range of motion. The forearm is printed with a harder plastic material, for greater rigidity.

Ahmed is one of many patients who Pierre Moreau helped. At the age of 14, a barrel dropped from a plane, which landed near him and exploded, causing him to lose his left arm. After creating several prototypes, Pierre Moreau printed and post-processed a functional prosthetic arm, giving Ahmed the ability to look ahead and pursue his dreams again. In the future, he hopes the become an engineer and build houses.

Sick children, or makers of the future?

Dr. Gokul Krishnan founded an Innovation Pop-Up Space at Stanford Children’s Health

together with the help of some of their patients, such as Ariana, who has been diagnosed with lymphoma and was hospitalised for several months. Children that are hospitalised are often bored and find themselves sitting around and waiting for their next treatment.

This Innovation Pop-Up Space gives these children - and their siblings - an educational opportunity to spend their time usefully and learn how to work with the latest techniques to create their own inventions. The unique space gives patients the chance to work with Ultimaker 3D printers, electronic building blocks, computers, cameras and other tools they can use to invent and build their own creations.

The children that have come down to the Innovation Pop-Up Space feel an increased sense of control over their lives. So-called Maker Therapy allows children to spend their time more productively, stimulate their creativity, and give them the opportunity to be more than a sick child, but true pioneers with unique new technical skills that they can benefit from for the rest of their lives.

Improved surgical planning with 3D printing

3D printing literally gives surgical planning an extra dimension. Up until now, surgical procedures are prepared by carefully analysing detailed CT-scans on screens. However, a 3D print of a complex fracture could provide an important added value, especially when planning trauma surgery.

Dr. Mike Bemelman (trauma surgeon), and Dr. Lars Brouwers (MSc and promovendus) are currently investigating the added value of the 3D printing techniques to improve complex surgeries and reduce the time and costs concerned with these treatments.

A 3D-printed anatomical model gives surgeons the opportunity to practice difficult surgeries up-front, and precisely bend titanium plates for implant before the actual surgery starts, reducing operation time. Consultation between surgeons and patients has also been helped by 3D printing: a patient can better understand the complexity of his or her specific situation when bone fractures can be seen and held from different perspectives, when compared to a 2D scan on a screen. Even though the work of Dr. Mike Bemelman and Dr. Lars Brouwers is still in the investigatory phase, the initial results seem promising. Smart software solutions are able to transform CT scan files in to a 3D-printable STL file in no time, without any interference from the hospital’s IT department. This ease of use gives surgeons the opportunity to easily embed 3D printing into their existing workflow.

These are just a few examples of how accessible 3D printing has already made a huge impact on healthcare. As the technology advances yet further, there is ample opportunity for other healthcare innovators to adopt 3D printing, in order to continue to create solutions that improve the quality of life for those that need it the most

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Jul 27, 2021

 NHS care homes are better than private, report finds

2 min
 NHS care homes are better than private, report finds
NHS residential care homes provide better quality care than the private sector, a new report by Kepler Vision Technologies has found

A new survey has found that 60% of people with parents in NHS care homes believe the quality of care has improved, compared to just 49% of respondents with parents in private care facilities. 

The survey was conducted by Kepler Vision Technologies, an AI-driven company formed at the University of Amsterdam. It was carried out among UK adults with parents over the age of 75. 

Respondents cited more capable care staff and better monitoring systems as being the main reasons for improvement. 

However those who do not have parents in assisted living facilities had a different viewpoint - in this case only 35% of respondents believe that NHS facilities are improving, compared to 32% who believe it is only improving in the private sector. 

Only 18% of people whose parents live with them or independently believe care home staff are able to look after residents to a good standard.

Kepler Vision say this difference in opinion is due to perceived budget cuts and financial pressures, with 67% of people commenting that a lack of funding has had a negative effect on care in both NHS and private care facilities. 

Other key findings of the survey include: 
 * Out of those who say quality has declined in care homes, 69% say the NHS is dealing with budget cuts and increased financial pressure, while 65% also said that the private system is dealing with these pressures too
 * 55% said that they or their parent have money saved specifically to pay for their future care
 * 35% said the idea of their parent in a care home makes them feel frightened, although 32% say it makes them feel secure
 * 52% are worried about their parent catching COVID
 * 47%  are worried about their parent being lonely
 * 46% are concerned they could fall over alone

The announcement of this research follows the UK government's decision to delay presenting its social care budget till the autumn

Commenting on the research, Dr Harro Stokman, CEO of Kepler Vision Technologies said: “While it is good to see that people recognise the importance of staff and face-to-face interaction in elderly care, the huge gap in opinion between those with parents in care and those without shows that there are unfair negative perceptions around the residential care space. 

"More can and should be done by care homes to give people the confidence that their relatives will receive the very best care - by highlighting the excellent work of staff and how well they are able to monitor resident’s needs with easy-to-use technology.”

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