It’s easy to see that 3D printing and healthcare have a very good relationship. We’ve watched as this pairing has poured forth with medical models, prosthetics, and countless other beneficial products and processes. Only the most die-hard of Luddites would, at the point, question the footing upon which this relationship was based. Now it seems the time is coming for yet another declaration of commitment, this time between 3D printing and radiology…and what a lovely couple they make.
This year’s meeting of the Radiological Society of North America may not have been the location of choice for a sweethearts’ getaway, but all the signs in the air spoke of a burgeoning romance between additive manufacturing and conference attendees. Workshops were sold out well in advance of the conference and were given to standing room only crowds desperately taking pictures with cell phones of each slide in the presentation. It was clear that the attendees were love struck.
So what is it that radiology is finding so alluring? The siren song of 3D printing comes from the opportunities it provides for radiologists to up the take away that they provide to their clients. The report is that the ultimate product of a radiology consultation could move beyond the document and provide an enhanced and complete service package. To Nadim Michel Daher, Industry Principal, Medical Imaging and Imaging Informatics at Frost & Sullivan, the benefits of advancing the relationship between radiology and 3D printing are clear:
“What if radiology’s current product and service could both be augmented in a big way through 3D printing? What if radiology’s service line could expand to provide not just image interpretations, insights, and recommendations based on images, but also customized surgical guides and positioners, patient-specific prostheses, biocompatible implants for regenerative medicine, or deformable models for surgical training? The opportunities for radiology seem endless and are actually coming of age.”
But what Daher sees goes beyond an appreciation for the beauty of 3D printing. Instead, he sees the ways in which a fully developed partnership can be a mutually beneficial growth opportunity (which might be the best jargon yet for ‘true love’). Rather than keeping 3D printing on the side, he advocates for the formation of a bond between radiology and the 3D printing aspects of the medical industry. In other words, 3D printing isn’t something that would just be done with radiology results, but rather 3D printing would be an essential part of the services that radiology provides.
It may seem like splitting hairs, but it’s actually a pretty profound proposition. If radiology can somehow position itself as the provider of medical 3D printing service line, that would be quite a coup for the field. After all, nobody envisions a future in which there is less 3D printing rather than more. Daher explains:
“As clinical use cases diversify, the business case for an integrated approach to 3D printing in health care enterprises is becoming much stronger. Similar to the centralized 3D labs that many large institutions have formed around the advanced visualization and image post-processing functions, centralized 3D printing labs would be best able to serve the variety of needs of different clinical stakeholders in an enterprise. As such, who better than radiology, a central clinical function in its very essence, to take ownership of this new enterprise service line?”
This is the equivalent to taking 3D printing to a romantic dinner and then getting down on one knee to ask for its hand. With so many admirers, who knows if 3D print is ready for this kind of commitment or if the possibility for it to be wooed by another still exists.
At the very least, no matter how it unfolds, this is one celebrity relationship that will most likely be able to keep out of the tabloids. Do you see 3D printing as one of the common services radiology departments will offer in the future? Discuss in the 3D Printing by Radiology forum over at 3DPB.com.