The healthcare industry has turned to many advanced technologies to improve patient outcomes and recovery times in recent decades. For example, they have utilized virtual reality, robotics, and AI to improve their facilities and standards.
However, 3D printing is playing a significant role in preventing medical errors, reducing healthcare expenses, producing vital medical equipment, and improving various conditions, to name only a few of its benefits.
Continue reading to find out how 3D printing is transforming the healthcare industry.
Combating the COVID-19 Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected almost every nation across the world. In addition to claiming the lives of approximately 1.8 million people worldwide, the deadly virus has infected 37.2 million people, and the numbers continue to rise. What's more, it is leading to millions of people missing out on essential medical appointments and treatment, which is placing greater pressure on the industry.
There is also an increased demand for professional counselors who have obtained an online counseling degree. Millions of people require mental health services due to the emotional toll of lockdowns, quarantines, and loved ones' loss.
Thankfully, 3D printing helps many healthcare organizations cope with the pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic, as it allows them to meet the demand for critical medical equipment and supplies. For instance, many manufacturers have turned to the technology to increase the production of lifesaving equipment, such as open-source PPE.
Mental Health Education
As mentioned, there is a greater demand for people to secure an online counseling degree, which can help the healthcare sector to cope with the growing mental health crisis. Understanding that more awareness is required regarding mental health, Naomi Mwasambili, a former NHS therapist, launched Chanua Health, which utilizes the latest tech to help young people understand how the mind works.
To help the younger generation learn about the brain, the company uses 3D printed products and animations, and virtual experiences. For instance, they recently created a 3D-printed brain prototype, which can show how the brain can be affected by various mental health issues, such as anxiety and trauma. Plus, it can also provide an insight into brain injuries and dementia.
Combined with treatment from a counselor with a respected online counseling degree, young people can learn to cope with their overwhelming emotions and understand how they can develop and affect their personality.
Affordably Priced Prosthetics
Tragically, hundreds of thousands of people lose a limb every year, and only a small number of people will receive an effective prosthesis to restore their function. As many prosthetics are only available in limited sizes, many people who have lost a limb must find a design that is the best fit for their body. Custom-fit bionic devices are also often so expensive that it is only possible for many patients in developed countries to receive access to a much-needed prosthesis.
Unfortunately, losing a limb cannot only impair a person's daily functions, but they could struggle with the psychological effects of an amputation. For example, they might endure an increased dependency on others, social isolation, and/or decreased self-esteem and might need support from a counselor with an online counseling degree.
However, thanks to 3D printing development, it is now possible to quickly produce custom parts at an affordable price. Unlike mass-manufactured prosthetics, a 3D-printed prosthetic will be custom-made for a specific patient, which will provide a more tailored fit and will offer a lightweight design that matches their body. The technology also allows prosthetists to make the most of 3D printing's design freedom, which can help them overcome technology and financial barriers.
Burn victims often have limited options when attempting to heal disfigured skin. For example, they can undergo a skin graft, but the procedure can be painful and may produce poor results. Hydrotherapy options also often provide limited results for patients.
Patients with disfigured skin might not only struggle with poor self-esteem, but they might experience various mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. As a result, they might need to find support from a professional counselor, who will have developed exceptional listening, empathy, and communication skills when earning an online counseling degree.
3D-printed skin can, however, provide patients with an effective and low-cost option, which could transform their quality of life and confidence. A 3D bioprinter prototype created by Spanish researchers has produced human skin, which contains a biological ink made from human plasma and material extracts from skin biopsies. They can also produce approximately 100 square centimeters of human skin in 30 minutes. It could, therefore, become a lifechanging solution for burn victims.
Technology has supported medical training in a variety of ways in recent years, from students accessing textbooks and journals on the internet to budding professionals embarking on an online counseling degree program or another course.
3D printing is also helping to support medical training. The models can help students experience a visualization of the organ anatomy, which can serve as an effective education and pre-operative planning tool.
3D printed models of specific body parts are also helping to improve patient education and a healthcare practitioner's communication of a medical condition and treatment. As many patients will not be medically trained, a 3D printed model can help a doctor to visually explain a condition, such as where and why they are experiencing pain, why they might require an operation, and the expected outcome of a treatment.
A Pharmacology Breakthrough
3D printing can change the pharmaceutical industry forever and improve the quality of life for patients living with various medical conditions. As many people are required to take dozens of pills every day or week, many medical professionals must both time and monitor multiple medications. They are also required to consider potential drug interactions and daily requirements (such as consumption with or without food). However, a 3D-printed pill could store multiple drugs and will feature varying release times. It is currently being tested on patients living with diabetes, and the results are promising.
Thousands of people across the world are waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant. In fact, the number of patients who require an organ has doubled since 2013, but the number of available organ donations has barely changed.
3D-printing could help prevent a patient's reliance on an organ donation, as it helps support regenerative medicine. This involves using biomaterials, cells, scaffolds, or combinations, which can help create organs from transplants over-dependence on the existing donor model. 3D bioprinting can create multi-layered organs or tissues from soft biomaterials.
The technology has already helped to improve many patients' lives, as simple organs, such as the bladder, have been successfully transplanted using 3D bioprinting since the early 2000s. Yet, more work needs to be undertaken for complex organs, such as the liver and heart.
The Creation of Surgical Tools
Thanks to 3D-printing technology, it is now possible for surgeons to create tools that match a patient's distinctive anatomy. For example, they can create customized plates, implants, and screws that are more precise, which can lead to greater post-operative results and an improved quality of life for a patient.
It has been reported that the 3D-printed dental industry will increase to $9.5 billion by 2027, and it is expected to become a primary producer of both dental restorations and devices. 3D printing has increased the production of clear aligners, also known as invisible teeth straightening devices, as many companies have turned to the technology to create thousands of molds.
Helping Children to Overcome Mental Health Challenges
It has been reported that 10-20% of children are living with a mental health problem, such as anxiety or depression. As a result, many children can often benefit from talking to a qualified counselor, who has earned an online counseling degree and understands the importance of talk therapy.
Despite the many counseling services available across communities, many children living with a mental illness often struggle both inside and outside of school with professionals who have earned an online counseling degree. Unfortunately, many young people often refuse to engage in the classroom, or they could be verbally abusive to their teachers, parents, and/or peers. Yet, 3D printing has helped to engage some students and provided them with a newfound focus.
To help children to overcome their challenges, the Blair Project was launched in Wigan, England, to help children living with mental health challenges. After providing students with access to 3D printers, they chose to engage in the activity and asked their teachers' various inquisitive questions.
It is, of course, easy to see why students might become so engaged with 3D printing technology, as it has the power to produce many simple and complex designs at the touch of a button, which can spark a child's imagination. When combined with therapy from a counselor with an online counseling degree, it could help children of various ages to tackle their mental health issues and develop a new passion for technology.
An Effective Scoliosis Brace
Scoliosis leads to the bending of a person's spine, which can impact their everyday function and quality of life. The condition will gradually damage the spine, which can make daily activities painful, such as lying down, moving, or sitting. However, many companies are now producing 3D printed scoliosis braces that are comfortable and no longer restrict a person's movement.
Anxiety and depression can take control of almost every aspect of a person's life and can impact their goals and aspirations. To help people combat a disorder, York Mind, a mental health organization in the UK, teamed up with New Visuality, which is a non-profit art organization. Together, they created an art therapy treatment using 3D printing.
It allows people to express themselves through drawing, painting, collage, and photography, which some chose to convert into 3D models. It ultimately provided an outlet from their overwhelming emotions, which could prove helpful when combined with therapy from a counselor with an online counseling degree.
A Decreased Need for Animal Testing
Many vaccines, drugs, and cosmetics will require testing on animals, which aims to ensure their safety and efficiency before human testing. The animals are often bred for testing and are euthanized once it has concluded. Yet, 3D bioprinting is reducing the need for animal testing, as it uses living and functional human tissues from organs to experience more predictive results for potential drug candidates.
The Challenges of 3D Printing in Healthcare
Despite 3D printing providing a wide variety of benefits for the healthcare industry, it is not without its challenges. After all, it can take up to three hours to create one human brain model or the heart using simple plastic. However, the time length will grow when creating a bigger, more complex model using different types of plastics or materials.
Of course, the cost will also be determined by the design and material complexity, and dimensions could be limited due to a printer's size. Therefore, it might not be possible to create an entire body model or a limb as a single unit, so it will have to be divided into smaller parts that can be combined once printed.
3D printing is changing the healthcare industry. It is not only helping to produce lifesaving organs, human skin, and scoliosis braces, but it is seemingly improving mental health conditions in different ways, such as supporting mental health education and increasing engagement in children living with a disorder.
The technology has also helped to take some of the pressure off healthcare organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic. The coronavirus has sadly claimed the lives of more than a million people worldwide. It has resulted in a greater need for mental health support from counselors with an online counseling degree. Yet, 3D printing has helped to take away some of the burden placed on large and small medical facilities, as it has produced essential medical supplies that have helped to save many people's lives.
The technology is not without its challenges, as it is restricted by dimensions, production time, and material and design complexity. However, research and advancements will likely lead to many medical breakthroughs throughout the years, which can improve patient outcomes and industry standards.