When a San Francisco motorcycle rider left the hospital with his newly-broken finger strapped into an uncomfortable and “ugly” splint, he decided that he could do better. According to an article on 3D.com by Debra Thimmesch, Luke Iseman dusted off his trusty 3D printer and manufactured his own splint. He wanted something with rounded edges that wouldn’t catch on other objects or jab his palm. He wanted plenty of ventilation, and he wanted to make it easy to strap to his hand.
He quickly came up with a design, though he was puzzled how to get the correct curvature to fit his hand. He went ahead and created a flat splint that printed in less than half an hour, and discovered that when he took it off the printer’s hot plate, he was able to bend it to create a custom fit. Some flexible medical tape was all he needed to complete the project. Oh, and he was able to make it in orange, his favorite color.
While this is a small example, it illustrates a few possible benefits of converging technology in the wearable Health Tech field. First, it shows how a consumer can be more self-sufficient when it comes to potentially expensive medical devices. Instead of paying hospital prices for a finger splint, you may soon be able to get an image emailed to your local office or home supply store and drop by to pick up your device. (It’s possible that the bending to fit could be accomplished by a quick bath in boiling water to heat the plastic.) This would mean that healthcare professionals would only be needed for the diagnosis phase, which could lower costs. (And it’s possible that mobile health devices may be able to automate or streamline that part of the process as well.) The other point is that if the devices are being produced one at a time, it shouldn’t cost any more to produce a custom-fitted device that will fit better than anything that could be stocked in a hospital supply closet.