3D printing is beginning to impact hospital processes. Within hospitals, 3D printing is resulting in more successful surgeries, easier and more accurate testing of drugs, as well as better-developed synthetics. According to the Industry ARC, global revenue in healthcare 3D printing is expected to reach $1 billion by 2019. Although it is mostly used for implants, hospitals have been expanding their facilities by adding centralized 3D printing departments. Hospitals and other medical centers that use 3D printers may be eligible for the Research and Development Tax Credit.
The Research & Development Tax Credit
Enacted in 1981, the Federal Research and Development (R&D) Tax Credit allows a credit of up to 13 percent of eligible spending for new and improved products and processes. Qualified research must meet the following four criteria:
- New or improved products, processes, or software
- Technological in nature
- Elimination of uncertainty
- Process of experimentation
Eligible costs include employee wages, cost of supplies, cost of testing, contract research expenses, and costs associated with developing a patent. On December 18, 2015 President Obama signed the bill making the R&D Tax Credit permanent. Beginning in 2016, the R&D credit can be used to offset Alternative Minimum Tax and startup businesses can utilize the credit against $250,000 per year in payroll taxes.
Many hospitals are implementing 3D printing centers in order to create highly specific patient models. This new kind of surgical planning has allowed surgeries to become an even more personalized and better-prepared experience than before. Patients are screened with various radiologic technologies such as MRIs, CT scans, and ultrasounds. The images are then sent to the 3D printing department where they are printed using various materials to mimic the different kinds of tissues in the human body. With this realistic and custom-made model of the patient’s body, the surgeons discuss and are able to plan what will actually happen in the operating room. This is allowing surgeons to be better prepared for high-risk surgeries by practicing on the customized 3D models of their patient’s body. During an operation of a nearly fatal brain aneurysm, surgeons at the Jacobs Institute were able to considerably decrease the surgical risk by practicing on a 3D model beforehand. Surgical planning with 3D printed models has also shown to reduce time, and consequently costs, spent in the operating room.
Stratasys is one of the nation’s leading 3D printer and printing materials companies, providing 3D printers that range from desktop size to industrial. The materials they provide include rubberlike photopolymers and tough thermoplastics, although other materials may be used with their printers as well. Many medical centers around the country including Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Florida, the OSF HealthCare system in Illinois, and the Jacobs Institute in New York are using Stratasys printers in a variety of settings such as surgical planning, education and training, and medical device prototyping.
In terms of education, 3D printing is improving student experiences by enhancing learning and minimizing costs. By using 3D printing in medical training, students are able to get relevant models that can be modified and printed to represent the specific pathology that is being studied. This is an improvement from using animals, cadavers, and other not completely accurate models. Additionally, 3D printing provides convenience because CAD designs can be stored digitally and printed from anywhere, which gives medical centers and schools immediate access to 3D models without additional transportation costs. Medical students at the Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS) are among the future physicians that are being trained with 3D printed anatomical models. They are able to study the most intricate details of the human body, from the smallest bone in the ear to a fetal skeleton, and hold these models in their hands. Many say that this has taken their understanding and training to an entirely new level.
3D Printed Stents
3D printing is also relative to diseases in which tools are used to minimize the effects of the disease. One such case is when stents are used in people who have a coronary heart disease. A stent is a kind of metal scaffold that is inserted into a blocked artery and expanded to improve blood flow. Researchers at the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands are testing out 3D printed, biocompatible stents that are minimally invasive. They are made out of polymers that will be easier to be adopted by the body than traditional metal stents. The ReBioStent project is also aiming to reconstruct traditional metal stents into biodegradable and biocompatible stents. By 3D printing stents, medical centers reduce spending and increase the amount of life saving tools available to patients. The materials used in 3D printed stents, polymers instead of metal, also reduce the risk of long-term implantation, and improve the probability of cell adoption.
3D printing has the ability to dramatically improve procedures in the medical industry, specifically within hospitals. In order to accelerate this integration, research and development will be required to create innovative technologies and improved processes. These activities may qualify for substantial Federal and State R&D Tax Credits, which will benefit hospitals, medical centers as well as companies engaged in the development of these 3D printing technologies.
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Charles Goulding and Rafaella July of R&D Tax Savers discuss 3D printing in the medical field.