3D Printing Cements its Place in Healthcare

Formlabs 3D printing technology first to be listed in a major group purchasing organization (GPO) catalog, demonstrating increased demand for AM surgical tools and supplies.

Formlabs 3D printing technology first to be listed in a major group purchasing organization (GPO) catalog, demonstrating increased demand for AM surgical tools and supplies.

Among the many medical 3D printing applications is creating cranial implants to reconstruct a skull after fracture or surgery. Image courtesy of Formlabs.

If you’re looking for a sign that 3D printing has secured a place in healthcare and medical treatments, consider the news that Formlabs has secured a listing in a major group purchasing organization (GPO) catalog—a mechanism used to streamline costs and risks for hospital members.

Formlabs has signed a contract with Vizient, the nation’s largest member-driven healthcare GPO, to be listed in the catalog, the first time a 3D printing company has claimed such a spot, according to Formlabs officials. Industry research shows that over 70% of hospital purchases in the United States leverage GPOs to lower costs, reduce risk, and streamline purchasing for members. As part of the relationship, Formlabs will offer its 3D printers, materials, and solutions for converting CT/MR imaging into patient-specific anatomical models for surgical planning and implant sizing. The contract gives Vizient members access to negotiated pricing and select terms and conditions.

This milestone helps advance AM technologies for use in healthcare and precision surgery, making the technology more accessible, affordable, and trusted among medical professionals and providers, says Gaurav Manchanda, director of medical market development, at Formlabs. Demand for AM technology has increased significantly since the onset of the pandemic, Manchanda claims, as hospitals, governments, and medical device firms look for solutions that can facilitate the design of medical supplies that were either difficult or impossible to source due to disruptions in the global supply chain.

“The rapid design, decentralized production, and safe clinical use of AM-produced parts over the last 18 months has demonstrated the versatility and scaling potential of the technology,” he says. “As the healthcare industry continues to grapple with challenges such as the labor shortage, the ongoing pandemic, and demand for more efficient, patient-centered, and value-based care, 3D printing has been proven to provide clinical, financial, and operational benefits while improving patient satisfaction.”

In fact, Manchanda says Formlabs saw a four-time increase in the number of hospitals using its 3D printers to de-risk their supply chains during the peak of the pandemic. In addition, many are leveraging the same equipment in precision surgery to improve efficiency, reduce clinician burnout, and attract patients as means to minimize costs while increasing revenue, he adds.

Demand for GPOs has also increased during the pandemic as healthcare providers, mired in financial and operational challenges, look to anything that can help reduce costs and bolster efficiencies. “These companies also evaluate new technologies and conduct due diligence on new suppliers in order to facilitate adoption of new or emerging technologies,” Manchanda says. “Their role has increased significantly since the onset of the pandemic as items such as PPE and novel diagnostic kits need to be sourced safely and reliably, all while many hospitals face unprecedented financial and operational challenges due to unpredictable revenue from surgical procedures.”

Formlabs’ 3D printers and materials are specifically suited to medical applications, including fast medical device iterations, patient-matched preoperative planning tools and intraoperative surgical guides, as well 3D printed models for patient education. The company continues to advance its 3D printers and materials to suit the needs of medical professionals, from intuitive, FDA-cleared workflows to a wide variety of biocompatible and sterilizable materials. For example, BioMed Clear and BioMed Amber can be used for surgical planning and implant sizing tools, implant guides and drilling templates, and research and development. Two new biocompatible materials, BioMed White Resin and BioMed Black Resin, have recently been announced for applications where opaque materials are preferred for functionality or aesthetic quality. 

“As the industry seeks improved methods of care and treatments, Formlabs’ 3D printing ecosystem is a proven technology that is both affordable and easy-to-use,” Manchanda says. “These factors, combined with availability of these products via Vizient, will enable hospitals, medical facilities, and researchers to improve care while remaining cost-efficient.”

Watch this video to see how 3D printing and Formlabs can play a role in reconstructive surgery.

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Beth Stackpole

Beth Stackpole is a contributing editor to Digital Engineering. Send e-mail about this article to DE-Editors@digitaleng.news.

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