While 3D printing is becoming more widely used in general engineering the use of 3D printing in the medical and allied sectors such as dentistry has only just begun.
A number of NHS trusts across the North East have made a formal agreement to collaborate on digital health services for the benefit of their patients.
County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust has been using digital solutions across a number of its services for several years, combining technology developed by Harrogate-based digital health specialists, Inhealthcare Limited, and the clinical expertise of medical and other healthcare professionals.
This collaboration led the trust to establish Healthcall Solutions Limited to further develop the use of digital technology. The trust has now awarded shares in the company to neighbouring NHS acute trusts in return for active participation and collaboration.
In addition to County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, the trusts involved in Healthcall are Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust, North Tees and Hartlepool Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
Ian Dove, director at Healthcall Solutions, said: “The company is a vehicle for redefining best practice, recognising specialities and accessing the diversity of care expertise in the North East which has a population of over three million.
"Healthcall Solutions will enable professionals in the North East and across the UK, to implement digital care at scale, supporting care organisations to design, develop and implement digital care services at speed.
"There are so many ways that digital technology can enhance care, patient experience and the effectiveness of our services. For example, County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust uses digital technology to support patients who use Warfarin which requires regular monitoring, including blood tests. Traditionally, this means attending an outpatient clinic but digital technology means those patients who are happy to do so can take a pin prick blood sample at home and submit the readings using a hand held device. These results are assessed by a nurse specialist who is also available for advice and who contacts any patient whose reading is a cause for concern.
“Our patients love this service, it saves them the time and bother of coming to clinic - they can even submit their readings from overseas if they go on holiday. One benefit we didn't anticipate was the sense of empowerment patients have when self-monitoring - they work especially hard at managing their condition in order to get a good reading. Other UK NHS organisations have purchased this technology from us as it's not only great for patients but means clinics can focus on patients with the greatest need.”
Sue Jacques, chief executive of County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, said: “This is a bold and forward thinking step which I'm immensely proud of. Sharing knowledge and expertise is transforming the experience and care provided to patients across many of our services."