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Leveraging the latest advances in medical technology to bring patients better orthotic devices faster than ever before
Param Shah is the co-founder and CEO of Fusiform Medical Devices. Fusiform is a medical technology startup that seeks to revolutionize orthotics—instruments, such as leg braces, that provide skeletal and muscular support. Fusiform’s approach combines 3D modeling with order tracking software to give customers custom-fabricated, durable orthotics faster than ever before. Earlier this year, the company was one of six chosen for Accelerate Baltimore’s incubator program. A Johns Hopkins University alumnus, Param also founded the Lotus Life Foundation: a nonprofit that offers medical intervention and education for children living with disabilities in rural India.
Offit Kurman: Is this really about a 3D printing medical company?
PARAM SHAH: 3D printing is the newest thing in the orthotics and prosthetics industry. It’s an obvious fit.
How are current orthotics practices outdated?
I’ll start out with how devices are currently made and why it takes a month to get a device to a patient. Essentially, right now a patient walks in and they say, “I want an ankle foot orthotic.” An ankle foot orthotic basically goes from the bottom of your feet up to the knee. The patient then sits down with the orthotist for about an hour, in which the orthotist wraps plaster around their leg, takes that plaster mold and basically fills it with more plaster to create a solid block of plaster that represents the leg. They then ship this to an outside fabricator, who then returns the device, handmade, in two to three weeks. Not only that, you see handwritten and faxed order forms and all sorts of other inefficiencies in this field. And doing these sorts of pipelines myself, I saw how much it could take out of not only time, but also budget—running a nonprofit.
Tell us how Fusiform is changing the field.
Essentially, 3D scanning is the next big thing in this industry because first of all, a scan takes 10 minutes versus the hour that casting requires. Beyond that, 3D printing is getting to a point where it’s commercially viable for people to use it for this sort of setting. We started with 3D printing. That was the big idea at the beginning, and we realized that when you’re 3D printing, it goes in layers. We realized there were structural integrity problems with that method, so we chose to go with alternative methods of machining in order to create our device. What we realized is that other companies in this industry that are going towards 3D printing are going in the right direction but with the wrong mindset. What they’re trying to do is 3D-print the device that has already been made for decades, and this device in itself is inefficient on the level of the patients. So what we’re trying to do is not only introduce 3D scanning, but hit a triple bottom line where with our software and hardware integrations we cannot only streamline the clinical operations and improve patient experience, but at the same time reduce waste that comes from making these blocks of plastic that are chucked after six months of wearing them.
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