3-D printers can’t actually make new skin; at least not yet. But creative innovators at Miami University are using 3-D printers to train health care workers to prevent one of the most serious health hazards in long-term care facilities — pressure sores.
Thanks to strategic investments from the Ohio Department of Higher Education and creative university collaborators in southwest Ohio, the future of wound care will be changed forever, much to the relief of long-term care patients and their families.
Over the past six months, $5 million in Regionally Aligned Priorities in Delivering Skills (RAPIDS) grants have been awarded across Ohio; the $1 million shared by Miami University, the University of Cincinnati and Cincinnati State Technical and Community College is being put to use in the medical and modern manufacturing fields.
“The goal is to get regional universities to look for high-end equipment and infrastructure to align with workforce needs in the region,” said James Oris, Miami’s associate provost for research. “3-D printing is where we’re headed in terms of cost-efficient and modern manufacturing.”
Bioengineers at Miami will use the 3-D printers to develop simulators used to train workers in nursing homes to monitor the condition of patients’ skin. This will allow for quick recognition of suspicious areas before pressure sores actually form, critical in the prevention and treatment of the problem. So-called bed sores often are preventable, but remain a serious and costly medical problem in nursing homes. The annual cost of treatment exceeds $3 billion, so the value of prevention is clear.
Jessica Sparks, associate professor of chemical, paper and biomedical engineering at Miami University, said the technology is used to scan areas of the body prone to developing problems and to reproduce tell-tale images from the skin of people from different ethnicity so workers can learn to recognize the signs for earlier intervention.
The simulators will be developed for commercial use, and will have implications for workforce development and training. Sparks said numerous long-term care facilities are interested in training their staffs once the training curriculum is available.
RAPIDS grants reflect the strengths of individual institutions and the business needs of their home communities. Cincinnati State will use RAPIDS grant money to expand workforce training in modern manufacturing, and the University of Cincinnati will build on its involvement in aerospace engineering.
Meanwhile, in northwest Ohio, a $1 million RAPIDS grant will be used to provide mobile training units for the Advanced Manufacturing Training Center operated by the University of Toledo, Terra State Community College and Northwest State Community College, expanding the reach of the University of Toledo’s Scott Park Campus for workforce training in the region.
Northeastern and central Ohio grants are being used to place telemedicine training units in classrooms, labs and training settings across the regions for students as well as incumbent healthcare workers. The southeast Ohio award is to be used for worker training in the energy industry through a collaborative formed by Washington State Community College, Zane State Community College, Belmont College and Eastern Gateway Community College.