Innovation at the VA

Last November, GE Healthcare https://www.gehealthcare.com  and the VA Puget Sound Health Care System https://www.pugetsound.va.gov announced a partnership to accelerate the use of 3D imaging in healthcare. As part of the research agreement, GE Healthcare will provide software and work stations with the VA providing input on their use of the technology.

Prior to this agreement, the VA used 3D software not designed for medical use. The use of 3D medical printing is still in its infancy, so as a result software designed exclusively for the medical community is limited.

VA Puget Sound is now integrating GE Healthcare’s advanced visualization workstations with 3D printing software across their facilities in Seattle, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Cleveland, and Salt Lake City.

3D printing is used to manufacture orthopedic implants and guide surgical cutting, to study the impact of surgery on patients. The 3D printing field will develop clinical guidelines along with 3D printing reimbursement tracking codes. Also, it is anticipated that the integration of technology and software will support the widespread adoption of point-of-care 3D printing in hospitals.

Today, the Veterans Health Administration https://www.va.gov/health is using 3D printing to solve a wide range of issues. Researchers are studying how 3D printing can be used to print model kidneys for patients with renal cancer for doctors to use for pre-surgical planning. This allows surgeons to plan their surgical approach to maximize preservation of normal kidney tissue, and avoids disturbing unaffected vessels that surround a tumor.

VA researchers are working with collaborators to create a bio-printing program using 3D printing to fabricate replacement tissues that are customized to an individual patient. Developments in this field will decrease wait times for tissues and organs, reduce the need for grafting surgeries, and enable hospital and healthcare providers to improve the quality and safety of medical procedures.

VA radiologists specializing in cardiology, oncology, orthopedics and other areas are also using the technology and software. For example, radiologists producing models of normal and pathological anatomy using automation techniques are speeding up the pre-3D printing preparation work and diagnostic process from hours to minutes.

Another innovative project is taking place at the VA NY Harbor Healthcare System https://www.nyharbor.va.gov and at NYU Langone Health https://nyulangone.org, using “Point-of-Care Ultrasonography” (POCUS).

Now a new ultra-portable ultrasound device is making it easier and more efficient to do ultrasounds. The device called the “Butterfly IQ” is revolutionizing the way physicians examine their patients. The low cost device is a lightweight probe that looks like a sleek black electric razor that plugs into an iPhone to do the ultrasound and then produces precise high quality results immediately at the bedside.

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