The Art of the Possible: Innovating with 3D Printing in Health Care

Written By Newfoundland & Labrador Health Services

Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) Health Services has embraced innovation to improve the health-care experience for not only patients, clients and residents but also for employees and staff. Over the last several years, many innovative ideas have come directly from employees who have seen a real need to help those they serve. Some of these employees have used 3D printing to improve services for their patients.

Catherine Babstock, a physiotherapist turned program manager with the medicine program in the Eastern Urban Zone is no stranger to getting creative. She is constantly seeking ways to foster meaningful engagement and stimulation for patients, especially seniors.

“Hospitalized older adults are at risk for decline, and one of the ways to prevent this is to keep their minds stimulated. It is important that we find innovative ways to target their interests and help keep their mind occupied,” she said.

Catherine Babstock puts together a puzzle created for patients using 3D printing.

It was seeing these behaviours first-hand that inspired Catherine to think about an innovative solution to address a recreational therapy need in the acute care setting. She wanted to provide patients with a more motivated and improved hospital experience. Through a pilot project, she collaborated with a division manager to have recreational therapists added as a component of the medicine program. As a result, she saw a need to have stimulating items that could safely be shared among patients.

“Things like a puzzle that could meet hospital standards in terms of being safely shared among patients did not exist,” Catherine said. “I wanted something that met Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC) principles that could be shared safely in a hospital setting so that it was sustainable.”

Catherine was introduced to a third-party innovation company at an information session for NL Health Services employees and physicians and saw the potential to create products that could benefit her patients. PolyUnity is a local company that provides efficient and effective 3D printing to health-care organizations by helping health-care providers design, access and produce what they need on demand. The staff of NL Health Services’ Innovation Program help employees co-develop ideas in collaboration with partners like PolyUnity.

Lisa Murphy, recreation therapy worker, and Makenzie Reid, recreation therapist, are with the recreation therapy program on Catherine’s team, and loved the idea of having the product created with the patient in mind.

“When you help a patient put together a puzzle, it inspires them to tell their story; they recognize the row houses because it reminds them of home and it helps you to connect to a patient,” said Lisa.

Makenzie agreed. “When you can connect with your patients and have the things to do so, it brightens their day.”

From L-R: Lisa Murphy, Catherine Babstock, Makenzie Reid, Jason Stock (PolyUnity)

Fit the Mold: A 3D Experience

Tim Healey, a medical dosimetrist with the NL Health Services’ cancer care program, became an innovator in this workplace when he saw an opportunity to improve the administration of radiation doses to patients. Patients who require radiation for certain types of cancer need to have radiation doses delivered safely and not negatively impact surrounding tissue.

Tim Healey showcases a 3D created mold.

In the past, a mold was created out of plaster.  “I noticed a gap in the plaster where the end product often didn’t touch the patient’s skin closely enough – we wanted to find a better way,” Tim said.

Tim learned that 3D printing through PolyUnity could create an improved mold using CT data, resulting in more accurate dose delivery and led to positive results in better patient care.

Tim is humble about the work he does with his patients to help them with their treatments and the stress they experience going through cancer. For Tim, being innovative in his workplace and seeing innovative ideas come to life has resulted in a big impact on patients – where he feels it is needed most.

NL Health Services is committed to providing the best possible care to patients, clients and residents. Providing opportunities for employees like Catherine and Tim to think outside the box and to find creative solutions to improve patient outcomes and quality of care is a cornerstone of innovation at NL Health Services. We encourage any employee or physician who has an innovative idea to reach out to the innovation team.

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