3D Printing Prosthetics Improving VA Wait Times and the Care of Texas Veterans

Posted by OCmosby 05/12/2017 0 Comment(s)

October 30, 2017

 

For years, Prosthetic Design, Inc. (PDI) has been developing 3D printing technology specific to fabricating lower extremity prosthetic sockets. This technology is used by their sister-company, Dayton Artificial Limb Clinic, who started fitting patients with 3D printed prosthetics in 2013 and never looked back. Four years later, PDI has optimized this technology and introduced several generations of their Squirt ShapeTM 3D Printer to different facilities and universities around the country. The newest edition, the third-generation PDI Squirt ShapeTM 3D Printer departed at the end of October for its new home at the South Texas Veterans Health Care System (STVHCS) in San Antonio, Texas.

 

Prosthetic Design, Inc. in Englewood, Ohio has introduced cutting-edge technology since its start in 1991, fueled by their desire to break down barriers that limited amputees from receiving the care they deserve. One of the biggest concerns with fitting a patient with a prosthesis is the wait time involved. Typically, patients wait anywhere from 1 – 3 months before being fit with a prosthesis. This inconvenience often results in disuse of the muscles leading to atrophy and a loss of muscle strength at a rate of around 12% a week, decreasing the well-being of the patient and delaying rehabilitation (Nursing Times, 2009). The process of fabricating the prosthetic socket (the part of the prosthesis that adapts to the patient’s limb) takes at least 2 days when utilizing traditional techniques, but after developing their specialized 3D printer, PDI has achieved a fabrication time of approximately 1 ½ hours for a transtibial socket- 32 times quicker than traditional methods.

 

With the new PDI Squirt ShapeTM 3D Printer, the VA in San Antonio will be able to fit veteran patients exponentially faster, thus having the potential to drastically reduce the Department of Veteran Affairs’ notoriously long wait times. The United States Department of Veteran Affairs has clearly defined its 2017 objective to improve VA operations and VA hospital ratings: on May 31, 2017, VA Secretary David Shulkin announced a department overhaul to improve what he identified as 13 areas in which the agency still faced considerable challenges. The first and most prominent issue addressed in Shulkin’s briefing was “access.” Shulkin noted, the “wait time issue” first came to light in 2014, and recent assessment of this ongoing issue has resulted in a significant improvement for veterans requiring clinically urgent care (USA TODAY, May 2017). This improvement is the result of both past and ongoing efforts, including the most recent introduction of the VA’s Healthcare Improvement Center. Shulkin gave a sneak peek on October 31, 2017 of the center, which resembles an Uber-like control room that identifies low-performing organizations and implements effective interventions (USA TODAY, October 2017).

 

Prosthetic Design commends the STVHCS and their Prosthetics Department for pursuing new technological advancements such as the PDI Squirt ShapeTM 3D Printer to better serve their veteran patients. PDI’s mission is “to break down barriers limiting the accessibility of prosthetic care worldwide through innovation and collaboration,” and as such, PDI is honored to assist in the prosthetic care of our Texas veterans as well. This collaborative initiative is pursued with hopes to ignite an interest in and recognition of the opportunities technology can provide to veterans and civilian amputees alike. PDI keeps three goals in mind when developing new products and technology:

 

  • Educate those willing to adopt new techniques specific to lower-extremity prosthetics and inspire them to think past current boundaries within the prosthetics industry.

 

  • Provide innovative products and services of superior quality and value that improve the lives and welfare of amputees.

 

  • Develop 3D Printing technology with the focus of simplicity to promote universal use capable of surpassing geographic, communication, and socio-economic barriers.

 

By pursuing these goals, PDI hopes to further their impact domestically and eventually see their vision of Global Prosthetic Access become a reality.

 

 

 

 

 

Sources:

 

June, 2009 29, et al. “Effects of bedrest 3: musculoskeletal and immune systems, skin and self-Perception.” Nursing Times, www.nursingtimes.net/effects-of-bedrest-3-musculoskeletal-and-immune-systems-skin-and-self-perception/5003298.article.

 

Slack, Donovan. “VA still in critical condition, Secretary David Shulkin says.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 1 June 2017, www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2017/05/31/veterans-affairs-secretary-david-shulkin-state-of-va/102333422/.

 

Slack, Donovan. “Exclusive: VA goes high-Tech with Uber-like tracking center for veteran health care.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 31 Oct. 2017, www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2017/10/31/exclusive-va-goes-high-tech-uber-like-tracking-center-veteran-health-care/814754001/.

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