As 3D printing becomes increasingly ubiquitous, medical professionals are vying to see how they can utilize it in their practice. Since 3D printing largely relies on radiology to produce the models, the rise of this technology is important for imaging professionals as well. The MarkeTech Group recently surveyed our imagePRO panel to gauge where their institutions stood regarding advances in 3D printing technology.

The majority of respondents currently do not see a use for 3D printing… 

When asked whether their institution currently utilizes 3D printing for medical purposes, only 9% of respondents reported using it. The majority of respondents (59%) reported that they did not use 3D printing and did not see a purpose for it at their institution. This response suggests that respondents either do not need it or are unaware of its various benefits — if the latter is the case, then the onus is on 3D printing vendors to demonstrate their products’ value to customers.

… But imagePRO™ panel members anticipate 3D printing being used for a variety of applications

Physicians and researchers are finding more use for 3D printing every day, often in tandem with imaging. Many specialties, from cardiology to maternal-fetal medicine, stand to benefit from innovations in this field.

Perhaps because it has so many uses, imagePRO members did not reach a clear consensus on which medical specialty has the most to gain from 3D printing. About a quarter (24%) of respondents believed that musculoskeletal would benefit the most from new applications, followed by cardiology (18%) and spine (17%). This could be due to awareness, as some specialties are more associated with 3D printing than others, and thus the benefits to some specialties are not as clear. Yet even some specialties that are not typically associated with 3D printing, such as gastroenterology(1%), will also be helped by advances in this realm.

The most common use cases for 3D printing may involve simulation and planning

Though 3D printing has a variety of use cases, the majority (63%) of respondents stated that it would be most commonly used for simulating or planning surgical procedures, and another 9% said that it would be most commonly used for simulating imaging scans or protocols. Some respondents anticipated using 3D printing for educational purposes as well—16% of respondents said it would be most commonly used for patient education, and 6% stated that it would be used for physician education.

What does this mean?

With 3D printing seeing higher adoption, imaging departments must keep up. One way to do this is by investing in training courses for radiologists. Radiologists who have taken courses on 3D printing have given positive reviews and believe the technology has the potential to help patient care. Clinical specialties may use 3D printing directly, but as of now, many imaging directors do not believe that 3D printing would be useful in their own department. It is up to both radiologists and vendors to convince them otherwise.

How do you feel about 3D printing?

Let’s continue the conversation about your customers’ perception of 3D printing in their own practice!