The Surgical and Prosthetic Design (SPD) team at PDR has an international reputation in the use of design technologies for medical application and recently became the UK lead partner in a joint project with the Department of Health Research Multidisciplinary Research Unit (DHR-MRU), King George’s Medical University in Lucknow, India.
Titled Collaborative Medical Device Design Initiative – Co-MeDDI, the project is funded by the UK India Education Research Initiative and, building on existing relationships, it will develop research that is necessary for long-term collaborations between researchers, industry partners and community actors in the UK and India.
Co-MeDDI will address the need for better community resilience and local supply chains in healthcare, and will illustrate this through the collaborative development of new design methods for devices used to correct facial deformity.
India has a high incidence of facial deformity caused by burns, accidents and disease. Sufferers of this often face stigma making them vulnerable to social exclusion and less able to contribute to both the economic and social development of a community. Custom made (patient specific) medical devices such as prostheses and burns treatment splints, can dramatically improve their appearance and help to reduce this social stigma.
The provision of patient specific medical devices in India is currently severely limited. The production methods involved require highly skilled specialists to hand make each piece which limits availability by both proximity to a specialist centre and the high manufacturing costs.
3D digital tools, manufacturing and design methods offer the potential to reduce the cost of fabrication as well as to improve accessibility to patient specific devices through distributed manufacturing. This project will build on the Indian culture of Jugaad (developing low cost innovative solutions using locally available resources) to discover novel ways of using 3D digital technologies to develop locally appropriate solutions to the treatment of facial deformities across India. With the support of design and medical experts, Co-MeDDI aims to dramatically reduce the unit cost of fabrication and increase accessibility to patient specific devices.
The objectives of this project are to:
Collaboratively-develop regionally-appropriate methods that will enable the provision of custom made devices used to correct facial deformity to a greater number of people in India, and to test the feasibility of the new approach.
Identify and prioritise new collaborative research projects to overcome the challenges identified.
Develop community, training and industry partnerships that will help to implement the research.
PDR’s Dr Dominic Eggbeer and Dr Katie Beverley recently travelled to India along with Peter Evans from Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board’s Maxillofacial Unit at Morriston Hospital for the first exchange visit on this project.
As part of this visit, a stakeholder engagement session was held with surgeons from different areas to look at how they would use the technologies and to find out the real challenges that they face. User journey mapping was used to understand the process involved for them currently and a problem definition exercise was carried out with the attendees. These results will be turned into a proposal as part of the project.
Dominic explained, “The first of four exchange visits allowed us to work with King George’s Medical University to develop a strategy for implementing 3d design engineering and manufacturing technologies. The Department of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery has a vision to be outstanding globally for patient care, teaching and research. It is a pleasure to work with this department, the wider hospital, local industry and research sector to help them realise this vision. We are grateful to the UK India Education Research Initiative for funding this opportunity, which is already producing tangible benefits.”
Whilst in Lucknow, Dominic, Katie and Peter were also invited by Prof. Mehrotra, Vice Dean and Faculty in charge of the DHR-MRU, King George's Medical University, to present at the National Conference on Medical Tissue Bioengineering.
Peter gave a presentation showing how his team use additive manufacturing and other forms of manufacture in the prostheses lab at Morriston Hospital. Dominic presented examples of the work carried out at SPD and Katie’s presentation posed the title: Can a circular economy approach support health initiatives in resource-constrained environments? It explored the notion that the new laboratory would need to become self-sustaining in order to pay for the democratising of such a treatment.
“The Department of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery has a vision to be outstanding globally for patient care, teaching and research. It is a pleasure to work with this department, the wider hospital, local industry and research sector to help them realise this vision”
DR DOMINIC EGGBEER, HEAD OF SURGICAL AND PROSTHETIC DESIGN
Long term, this exchange of experience between India and the UK will lead to large-scale research projects, education and training programmes and commercial ventures.
The design methods developed during the project will be applicable to healthcare challenges and other regions, creating a platform for long-term sustained impact.