If the Department of Veteran’s Affairs has anything to say about it, the future of health care may involve three-dimensional printing. They recently announced a partnership between VA Puget Sound Health Care System – one of their regional affiliates – and GE Healthcare, a collaboration whose goal is to accelerate the use of 3-D printing in patient care.
Benefits of Three-Dimensional Printing
You might not associate three-dimensional printing with the health care industry, but this cutting-edge technology offers many benefits to the medical field. One of the biggest involves a significant reduction in the amount of time it takes radiologists to create 3-D models and prosthetics. Whittling the process down to mere minutes will benefit an estimated 9 million VA patients and help pave the way for future research and development of 3-D printing applications in the health care industry at a scale that makes it feasible.
Currently, 3-D printing is used in the manufacturing of orthopedic implants and helps surgeons guide their instruments for precision cutting. With the adoption of new clinical guidelines, ICD reimbursement codes, and advances in technology and software, three-dimensional printing is expected to gain a wider berth in hospitals nationwide.
Terms of the agreement stipulate that GE Healthcare will provide software and work stations in exchange for the VA’s valuable input on the use of 3-D printing technology. Prior to now, the VA has relied on software that wasn’t specifically designed for use in the medical field. VA Puget Sound plans to expand its 3-D network to facilities in Seattle, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Cleveland, and Salt Lake City.
Beth Ripley, MD, a radiologist at VA Puget Sound, echoes the sentiment of many in the health care field who are excited about the widespread adoption of 3-D printing technology. “For most radiologists,” she says, “3-D images are limited to reconstructions on a computer screen. By harnessing the power of 3-D printing with a rich data set, we are able to pull images out of the screen and into our hands, allowing us to interact with the data in a deeper way to fuel innovative, personalized care based on the unique needs of each of our patients.”
Indeed, the anticipated outcome of this partnership is to allow VA radiologists to produce models of normal and pathological anatomy using automation techniques provided by GE Healthcare’s advanced visualization tool. This should speed up preparation work and the overall diagnostic process.