Brian Overshiner is able to print almost anything the healthcare system might need.
INDIANAPOLIS — 3D printing technology has been used to create toys, decor and even build musical instruments, but IU Health has found a way to use technology to improve patient care.
“We can essentially personalize medicine,” said Brian Overshiner, manager of the 3D Innovations Lab at IU Health.
Tucked inside University Hospital, Overshiner keeps a close eye on the work his 3D printers are churning out. But before he found his passion for printing, Overshiner worked for more than a decade as a radiation therapist.
“I’ve been treating cancer patients for a decade and a half, and 3D printing was a personal hobby of mine that I picked up,” Overshiner said.
He started printing parts and pieces for work. But years later, “Now it’s thrown into a full 3D lab.”
These days, it’s able to print almost anything the healthcare system might need.
“So we can print the anatomy of patients and surgeons can then pre-plan their surgical cases that are complex and eliminate problems before they go to the operating room,” Overshiner said. “Everything from mobility aids for rehab patients to prototypes for medical school researchers.”
Since 2017, they have grown and expanded into the lab they have now, with multiple printers and materials constantly working.
“We can customize treatment equipment specifically for patients,” Overshiner said.
By utilizing their 3D printing skills, he is able to create models that can print and show heart defects first hand, helping to better educate their healthcare staff.
“We can learn, see, read and watch pictures or videos, but we have that hands-on part so you’re able to hold it all together,” said Heather Humphery, nurse professional development practitioner at Riley Hospital for Children.
Children’s hearts are small, about the size of their fist and, sometimes, no bigger than a strawberry, Humphery said. So these large, 3D-printed models, which can show parents the type of heart defect or health issues their child is facing up close, have become a critical way for doctors to explain health issues. and how they are caring for patients.
“The bulbs go on very, very quickly,” Humphery said.
“Just by seeing it there, you can imagine where that hole is and what might be needed to close it,” said Dr. Jyoti Patel, pediatric cardiologist at Riley.
Patel said the switch from pen and paper to 3D models has allowed them to show parents exactly what kind of problem their child is facing, and that makes a massive difference.
“You can see that as, ‘Oh wow, there’s actually a hole in the lower two chambers of the heart,’ which is kind of an interesting concept and kind of hard to grasp sometimes that there’s actually a hole there ,” Patel said.
And over the years, these 3D models have become a vital part of the care IU Health provides.
“They’ve brought a piece that I wouldn’t want to be without, moving forward,” Humphery said.
In the five years since the lab opened, Overshiner said they’ve built it into a premier location in the Midwest by improving patient care.
“They’ve seen its benefits firsthand. We’ve had patients tell us, ‘This is the first time in five years that I’ve realized what’s happening to me because they actually have a visual representation that it’s easier to understand,” Overshiner said.
As technology develops and what they are able to print improves, Overshiner said these 3D models have the ability to have a massive impact on patient healthcare in the years to come.
“There’s a lot more potential. We’re just scratching the surface,” Overshiner said.