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Surgeons Won't Use 3D Printing for "Lack of Insurance"
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By Shanie Phillips | Inside 3DP

Despite the recent FDA approval of a 3D printed facial implant that can be used on patients needing facial reconstruction, many craniomaxillofacial (CMF) surgeons still do not want to consider using 3D printed devices due to lack of insurance, says an analyst at research and consulting firm GlobalData.

Medical device analyst Linda Tian says surgeons are still hesitant to try 3D printed medical devices, despite the FDA approval, as there is a lack of insurance covering the technology. According to Tian, patient-specific medical implants still don’t have sufficient insurance coverage or existing reimbursement opportunities. As a result many surgeons do not consider it financially viable and still opt for more traditional reconstructive devices. Surgeons have also rejected offers to participate in medical training for pre-surgical planning and 3D printed implants.

Financially driven

The news comes after a number of clinics and companies have noted successful attempts at using 3D printed medical devices on patients. 3D printed vertebrae, skullsand pre-surgery medical models have all been used successfully to aid patients in need of restorative surgery. Doctors and researchers have also found that 3D scanning and printing a patient is not just more accurate in terms of implants and surgical planning, but also very efficient.

“The processing chain, from data acquisition to 3D printing of CMF patient-specific implants, has proven to be practical and uncomplicated,” says Tian. “However, 3D printing might continue to be plagued by a major weakness in terms of its future growth within the orthopedic industry, namely the need for hospital administrators to cut costs associated with high-volume surgeries, such as trauma.”

According to Tian, even though 3D printed implants mayreduce overall costs of implant ownership by reducing operating time, hospital stay duration and the chance of procedure complications, there is still a lack of clinical evidence proving the actual cost-effectiveness of 3D printed implants in facial reconstructive surgeries.

Exploring opportunities

Apparently 3D printing will continue to be used in the medical field today mainly by companies, hospitals and large clinics looking to conduct their own research and experiment with the opportunities made possible by the technology.

“Over the next five years, the medical devices sector will see more partnerships between small contract 3D-printing service firms and large orthopedic companies seeking to explore opportunities in this revolutionary technology,” says Tian. “This will occur as the clinical community increasingly acknowledges the efficiencies of a serviced-based approach to personalized surgery that combines expertise in medical imaging, surgical simulation and 3D printing.”

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