SARASOTA — Across the nation, 3D printing is benefitting medical care in multiple ways, including the creation of better performing medical devices and personalized care for patients. During the pandemic, however, Sarasota Memorial Hospital adopted a more mundane, but critical new use for the technology: safeguarding the protective gear that shields doctors and nurses caring for COVID-19 patients.
During the first wave of the pandemic, one of the most valued pieces of personal protective equipment for clinicians – controlled air-purifying respirators known as CAPRs – became scarce as hospitals struggled to replace the helmets and other personal protective equipment (PPE) amid a worldwide shortage.
That's when the SMH biomedical engineering team stepped in to help. With a small 3D printer that cost just $1,000, the team began producing a routine CAPR replacement part that manufacturers could no longer provide: a vital break-away tab for the helmet's faceshields. Without it, the CAPRs could not be used and clinicians had to rely on N95 masks and other dwindling supplies to protect themselves from becoming infected while caring for COVID patients.
“With supplies critically low, it was an absolute necessity to do this – our clinical team needed those masks,” said Robert Santos, director of SMH’s Biomedical Engineering and Technology Assessment Department.
In the year since those first parts were 3D-printed at SMH, the team has also begun printing more than a dozen other items that various hospital departments need to reinforce and protect equipment. The efforts have helped the hospital overcome supply shortages, saving time and money.
“We clearly cannot modify any medical device, and that's not our intent, but if it's a disposable item and helps protect our equipment, that's where our focus is right now," Santos explained.
The Biomedical team's efforts have been largely led by Technologist Artem Chevtsov, a recent recipient of Sarasota Memorial’s Employee EXCEL Award. Prior to the pandemic, the department was not utilizing 3D printing, but as the team faced continuing challenges from the disruption to traditional supply chains, Chevtsov used his experience and training with 3D-printing technology to quickly set up a new printer and begin mass producing the CAPR replacement tabs and other essential items.
Recently, SMH purchased a second, larger 3D printer to support the Bio-Med team's innovative work.
“We've saved money from parts that were unavailable and have reduced damage to our equipment, but the real benefit is being able to quickly turn around those products and protective devices, and get them out to the clinicians," Santos said. "You can't really quantify that financially."
About Sarasota Memorial
Sarasota Memorial Health Care System is a regional referral center offering Southwest Florida’s greatest breadth and depth of care, with more than 1 million patient visits each year. Its flagship 839-bed, acute-care hospital has been consistently recognized as one of the nation’s largest and best, with superior patient outcomes and a complete continuum of outpatient services — from urgent care, trauma and emergency services to laboratory and diagnostic imaging, home health, skilled nursing and rehabilitation. SMH is the only hospital in Florida to have consistently earned the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ highest 5-star quality award since the rating system launched in 2016.