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3D printing continues to grow in healthcare

3D printing continues to gain momentum in the healthcare space.

SearchHealthIT heard at HIMSS 2016 that 3D printing was going to become a major aspect of healthcare and health IT, and now a Research and Markets report confirms this.

According to the report, 3D printing market revenue in healthcare is expected to cross the $3.8 billion mark by 2022.

3D printing is already being used in healthcare for various use cases ranging from creating prosthetic hands for children to helping with face transplants to helping surgeons practice complex surgeries before the procedure is performed on the patient.

“The healthcare industry is experiencing a revolutionary change due to technological advancements in the 3D printing technological framework,” according to the report. ”3D printing in terms of bio-printing, medical & dental implants, ortho-implants and prosthetics among others is pushing the healthcare 3D printing industry to the next level.”

Furthermore, the market for materials that are used in 3D printing in healthcare expected to grow to $1.10 billion by 2022, according to the report. These materials include metals, metal alloys, plastics and ceramics that can be easily integrated with the human body.

Currently, North America has the highest share in terms of revenue and volume of 3D printers, according to the report.

Harry Pappas, founder and CEO of the Intelligent Health Association, told SearchHealthIT that he thought 3D printing would be a “big wild factor” for a lot of people in healthcare.

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I have seen stories where the average person printed out a prosthetic for a child who needed on at a cost of a couple hundred dollars. If hospitals start to use this technology, will they drop their price to match what he did? I doubt it . It would just be higher profit margins for them. If they charge us dollars for a single Aspirin in the hospital that you can buy in qty like 3.00 for 100, I do not think they will discount the price of anything coming off a 3D printer. 
As it becomes easily possible to generate prosthetic parts outside of a health care environment, the cost will naturally drop on average. But the components of the cost don't entirely depend on whether it's 3D-printed or created from a mold process. Actually, it can be both more costly and more time consuming to fabricate such a part from a 3D printer, depending on the size and the internal complexity. For solid objects (i.e., no internal "holes" or empty spaces, mostly regardless of shape), it's almost guaranteed to be faster and cheaper not to use a 3D printer for similar quality. Molding parts can be both quick and cheap.

For 3D printing, though, the costs of the printers themselves will continue to drop, the costs of scanning and of converting scans into printing plans will continue to drop. Hard to predict where it will go, but it'll almost certainly just get both cheaper and more widespread.

The problem lies in the general costs of healthcare in the U.S.A. For an interesting high-level analysis, see Why an MRI Costs $1,080 in America and $280 in France. Not "3D printing", but the principles will tend to hold. We simply don't do anything about costs here.