3D printing is making significant progress in the medical sector. After already making important in-roads through international approvals of 3D printed implants, additive manufacturing (AM) is now advancing into hospitals themselves. Signaling further progress is a deal between 3D printer maker Formlabs and the largest member-owned health care company in the U.S., Vizient Inc. This makes it the first AM firm listed in a major group purchasing organization (GPO) catalog.
Formlabs technology has been validated in multiple FDA 510(k) cleared processes for making surgical tools, with its printers and medical device materials included in more than 1,500 publications in the field of surgery. The company achieved a major milestone during the COVID-19 pandemic when its equipment was used to 3D print nasal swabs (over 70,000, to be specific) and BiPAP adapters. New York State’s largest health care provider and private employer, Northwell Health, was using Form 2 stereolithography 3D printers and a Formcell mass production system within its facilities to produce these items en masse.
Now, Formlabs 3D printers, materials and other solutions have entered Vizient’s GPO catalog for use in converting CT/MR imaging data into 3D printed, patient-specific anatomical replicas for surgical planning, implant sizing, and patient education. GPOs allow member customers access to group-buying power to purchase goods at a discounted rate. They are responsible for 72 percent of all purchases made by hospitals. 97 percent of hospitals are associated with one more GPOs. Vizient itself works with over half of healthcare organizations in the U.S., including about 97 percent of academic medical centers.
Established as Voluntary Hospitals of America Inc. (VHA) in 1977, the company grew to encompass 5,000 not-for-profit health system members, including 1,360 acute care hospitals. Merging with University HealthSystem Consortium in 2015, the corporation changed its name to Vizient in 2016. Through ownership of aptitude, Vizient had the industry’s first online direct market for local medical supply contracting. Its ownership of Provista allowed it to serve the non-acute medical market, government, education and business with medical supplies.
“The inclusion of the Formlabs technology ecosystem in the Vizient catalog signals an inflection point for 3D printing in the healthcare industry,” said Gaurav Manchanda, director of medical market development at Formlabs. “As the first 3D printing company to be listed in the largest and most prominent GPO catalog in the country, Formlabs has solidified its position as the leader driving adoption of 3D printing for precision surgery. With our proven printers, materials, and imaging-to-print solutions now available in the Vizient catalog, even more hospitals and surgical centers will be able to provide enhanced patient-specific care, patient consent, and physician education using cost-effective, easy-to-use technology.”
Formlabs notes that the American Hospital Association claims hospitals lost $300 billion in 2020 due to canceled non-emergency procedures and postponement of patient care. In turn, EBITDA margins for hospitals dropped more than 10% compared, even with government aid. The pandemic has seen a boost in a number of digital technologies and services, including 3D printing.
Cloud-based services expanded significantly as remote working and online education increased. Food delivery has also changed the global landscape. AM has also gotten a boost, not just from the production of medical supplies, but also as a stopgap tool for manufacturers in supply chain crunches.
The medical and dental sectors have already been considered the primary verticals where 3D printing would see the most mainstream adoption after aerospace. With the incorporation of Formlabs into Vizient’s GPO catalog, that may very well be the case. This will only fuel the spread of AM into other sectors as the technology becomes more relevant to automotive, general industry, and consumer goods.
Now we can wonder what other companies will listed in GPO catalogs like Vizient’s and what sectors outside of medical will see GPO integration as well. We may also wonder when Formlabs might take on bioprinting or if there are any mergers or acquisitions in the works. As far as dream IPOs are concerned, Formlabs CEO Max Lobovsky told attendees at the AM Investment Strategies summit that that was not the only option ahead for the company.
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