February 2014

Technological Innovations in Healthcare Industry

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ehealthMedical technology companies on a path to growth with innovative products that are easy for doctors to use and could improve lives. Wim Michiels, Executive Vice President at Materialise, in conversation with Ekta Srivastava, ENN

Tell us something about Materialise.
We have around 900 employees working in 16 offices all over the world. Basically, we started with the historical activity of buying a CD printer machine in 1990, and it was the second printing machine in Europe. The purpose was to help others with typing the applications. Materialise mission is to innovate product development, resulting in a better and healthier world through its software and hardware infrastructure and in-depth knowledge of additive manufacturing. Second big thing in the initial years was 3D printer in 2 layers. You take the CT Scan and put it in 2D and work on slices. Through this, we made the way to all custom making plans. Today half of our business is medical.

How were years 1999 to 2014. Describe your journey?
At that time, we started realizing about the benefits of 3D information. We started thinking to do surgery with planning in mid 90s. We looked at tempo for implant surgeries. The principle in CT Scan is to reconstruct the 3D. And all the planning, which you cannot see in the normal surgery could be seen with 3D. The tempo industry was somehow accepting it because it was new in a digital way. Later, it became the standard of care in tempology. Our company found the strategic partnerships for all kinds of reconstructions. We are involved in design designing, printing and endeavoring custom related plants and mostly what we do now is reconstructions and highly complicated hip revisions.

Any new innovations in bio medical researches?
It’s the same as customized plant anatomical model which is a world revolutionary innovation. And the other companies are taking our software to do their innovations.

Do you think India is ready to take this technology?
This technology has become more global and is helping those patients who have complicated medical problems. But, the biggest hazard is the cost. There are lots of people who cannot afford cost for such surgeries. When we come to India, the surgery would be provided to the patients who can afford it.

Are online services helpful?
If you look at the process of planning surgeries, it’s quite a complicated process. You have surgeon, assistants, people who would do composition of data. We have production centre and there are so many people who are involved. It’s very easy because it’s patient specific. It is quite easy to make mistakes if you don’t have the online system. But we do have an organization, where we know that who is handling what. And we try to keep everything transparent.

There are doctors working from 10-30 years, who are not ready to accept this technology of online process. So what do you think about it?
Talking about the senior doctors, they are very much experienced and they don’t need these kind of tools for their surgical processes. But, the younger generation is ready to accept this as it helps them to tackle difficult and complicated cases.

Being a mechanical engineer, how are you working in healthcare?
I am the MD of the organization, keeping a check on the overall activities of the concern and it’s my moral r responsibility to look after the health department also. Not necessary , we have medical doctors but we have whole lot of medical engineers who are working on the healthcare system.

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