3D printing has come a long way in a relatively short amount of time. We have seen the onset of automotive breakthroughs, breakthroughs in home construction, automation and in aerospace. The medical engineering space is no different.
However, now we are seeing yet another giant leap forward in the 3D printing world: Medical economics.
Through various means, 3D printing is now saving money for payers, patients, and providers across the board.
It does this through several processes.
The first of these process is streamlined development.
3D Printing and Accelerated Development
One of the most intriguing aspects of 3D printing, is its ability to develop fully functioning prototypes, as well as end-use products.
While 3D printing is not known for fast production when it comes to overly complex or large production models. However, when it comes to components and smaller production models, whether they are prototypes or end-use products, 3D printing can produce specialty items relatively fast.
This faster developmental process, especially when it comes to component or smaller specialty pieces, means less cost to the provider, payer, and patient.
Reduced Cost Differentials for Product Materials
Now, an additional player when it comes to this cost reductions across the board, is the cost of production materials.
The cost for standard or traditional production material costs can be astronomical. This cost differential is typically distributed across the board. This effectually increases prices on all end-use components and medical products for everyone involved.
This cost redistribution affects all industries. Not just the medical field. But think about these costs when it comes to medical devices or systems used for treatments. Some of these affect the balance of life and death.
In most cases, the overall costs of treatment or services involving devices, from pacemakers to EKGs, stems from the cost of the production of these systems. For example, medical isotopes that detect cancer in over 40,000,000 Americans each year are created through uranium. This process is costly, thus, resulting in major costs for the facilities that use them, the insurance companies that cover the majority of patient cost, and the patient who has to cover an expensive co-pay, when their insurance even covers the bulk of the treatment, which they don’t always do.
3D Printing in the Medical Space
This is why 3D printing in the medical space is so very important for so many reasons.
By developing 3D printing methods that can produce the machines that are used for cancer screening development, costs are cut for everyone, making these screenings more universally accessible. This means that people who could not afford to have one of these screenings due to costs being so high can finally afford one. This can potentially save thousands of lives short-term, and millions of lives long-term.
3D printing in regard to components for pacemakers could potentially reduce the cost so dramatically, it could become accessible to tens of millions of people with heart problems, saving people that otherwise would have been hospitalized or died from a cardiac event such as heart failure or heart attack.
By simply reducing the time it takes to develop and produce these components and devices, and reducing the cost of material, can save millions of lives by making these potentially life-saving medical products accessible to low-income earners who could not afford treatment otherwise.
3D printing can effectually improve the economics of the medical space through various means. Reducing production time and material cost has the potential to change the medical industry, as well as healthcare, as we know it.