The REHACARE trade fair showcases a wide variety of auxiliary aids and services for people with disabilities. Innovative technologies also play an important role in this setting. Thanks to 3D printing, Mecuris Gmbh is blazing a trail for orthopedic technology in the digital age and is improving medical care in the process.
Manuel Opitz, CEO Mecuris GmbH
In this REHACARE.com interview, Manuel Opitz talks about unique prosthetics and orthotics, explains why aesthetics are so important and reveals why orthopedic technicians will never be replaced by a computer.
How did you get the idea for Mecuris - Enabling Digital Prosthetics & Orthotics?
Manuel Opitz: The idea was born in 2014 at the University Hospital of Munich, when the orthopedic trauma surgeon Dr. Weidert realized that he was no longer able to provide adequate care for his patients. His choices were to either wait a long time for handmade prosthetic limbs or to prescribe a standard model in size "small", "medium" or "large", which is covered by insurance and immediately available but only fits about 60 percent of patients correctly. Aside from healthcare cost pressures, the reason for the trend towards out-of-the-box orthopedics is a skilled talent shortage in orthopedic technology. Mecuris was created in mid-2016 after a testing phase.
What makes your 3D printed orthotics and prosthetics so unique?
Opitz: The devices are digitally made by an orthopedic technician and 100 percent tailored to fit the needs of the wearer. Everyone is different and unique and should not be fitted with off-the-rack devices. In doing so, the 20 to 40 percent of wearers who don’t fit into the "small", "medium" or "large" category will now also receive optimal care. Here is a classic example of this: Children who need a prosthetic foot or feet. Some are still learning to walk with a device made from wood. That’s simply something that no longer has a place in the 21st century. And despite the added benefit of having a custom prosthetic foot, it’s something that’s now available and reimbursed by health insurance companies.
Mecuris uses innovative 3D printing to provide users with individual prostheses (see picture) or orthoses.
When does a prosthetic or orthopedic device fit perfectly in your opinion?
Opitz: There are three factors that play an important role in this process. First, the shape needs to be exact and fit perfectly. Orthopedic technicians can easily enter their measurements or upload scans or images to our website. We can use this data to automatically extract the shape for the patient and illustrate it in a 3D model. In the digital workshop, the expert is now able to adapt the device, as well as the subsequent care in a few minutes in said "digital workshop".
It, in turn, adapts to the shape of the foot. This step, which is still a manual process in many companies, is something we make the job of the computer. Second, the function must be right. This still requires an expert because the wearer’s mobility classification and his/her needs are a key factor. For example, does he/she need a waterproof prosthetic or orthopedic device or a device that’s just used during the night? Last but not least are aesthetics. This increases the acceptance of the wearer because she is involved in the production process. She can choose the color. Wearers also have the option of having a photo or picture of their favorite pet engraved on the prosthetic device. The idea is to move away from a sentiment of "I am hiding my prosthesis" to a statement of "I openly flaunt what I have." This is also a very essential factor for the wearer’s mental health.
Do you think that 3D printing could replace earlier production processes in the long run?
Opitz: I think 3D printing will definitely become a key production process of orthopedic and medical devices because every patient is one of a kind. This process really lends itself to this fact. It also allows experts in Germany to provide care for patients in other countries since the devices are configured on the computer. That being said, I don’t think 3D printing will become the only way to create prosthetic or orthopedic devices. You will always run into situations where older processes are better suited. What’s more, orthotists and prosthetists will still be in demand. They might have to switch to a more advisory role and spend less time in the workshop, but a computer is unable to replace them in their role as specialists and experts. Instead, they will be shown new tools and ways to offer more personalized and tailored care for each patient.
You will give two talks at the trade fair.
Opitz: The rehaKIND talk will focus specifically on care for children and the challenges and opportunities afforded by 3D printing and digital tailoring. We will showcase many examples in the field of prosthetics, as well as highlight the possibilities of orthotics. We will also address cost factors and reimbursement options. The REHACARE presentation is more general. It focuses on the overall digital process and the benefits this offers both wearers and orthopedic technicians. This presentation is designed to address all age groups.
Presentations by Manuel Opitz, Mecuris GmbH at REHACARE 2018
rehaKIND-Forum: "Digital solutions in the HiMi area" ("Digitale Lösungen im HiMi-Bereich")
Wednesday, 26.09.2018, 11:00-12:00 am, Ort: Hall 4, Stand HO2
REHACARE-Forum: "The perfect fit: Tailor-made orthoses & prostheses in 3D printing" ("The perfect fit: Maßgeschneiderte Orthesen & Prothesen im 3D-Druck")
Thursday, 27.09.2018, 16:15-17:00 pm Ort: Hall 3 / H70
The interview was conducted by Katja Laska and translated from German by Elena O'Meara. REHACARE.com