Universities and teaching hospitals have traditionally relied on donated human cadavers to learn anatomy. However, preserved cadavers are not always available and plastinated specimens can be difficult to obtain. Modern 3D printing technology facilitates the availability of anatomically correct, coloured plastic prints of various parts of the body or a full body at a fraction of the cost of an embalmed or plastinated body.
Arab Health Magazine takes a deeper dive into how products for medical education are manufactured, distributed and purchased, and how companies put the right tools in the hands of those who will impact the future of healthcare.
Manufacturer: Driving development
3D printed anatomical models represent the next step in medical education and are quickly becoming a necessity for academic study. For instance, Germany-based manufacturer Erler-Zimmer Gmbh & Co’s product portfolio includes the full range of anatomical models for medical education. The company was established in 1950 and has emerged as one of the world’s leaders in the production of 3D printed models. It utilises a range of production tools right from laser hand-held scanners, MRI imaging, CT scans, segmentation software and 3D printing to ensure the models are anatomically accurate.
Andreas Falk, General Manager, Erler-Zimmer Gmbh & Co. told Arab Health Magazine: “Our anatomical models have stunning depiction and accurately illustrate thousands of intricacies found in the human body. The realistic details of a dissected specimen are captured in ways that traditional moulding and casting techniques cannot. We have partnered with Monash Centre for Human Anatomy Education at Monash University, Australia, for the manufacture of 3D printed models. Currently, there are 55 3D printed models produced by us, all of which are available from our dealer and distributor, Leader Healthcare.”
Falk explained that the 3D series includes models that would otherwise be impossible to visualise, such as vasculature of the brain. The anatomical kit is expected to dramatically improve learning and could even contribute to the development of better surgical outcomes for patients.
When asked about the type of quality management system followed by the company, Falk shared: “State-of-the-art production technology, quantitative measurements, repeatability tests, reliability tests, standard quality management plus stringent in-house quality control systems ensure that the models are anatomically accurate and true to the original specimens.”
With regards to selecting a distributor, the General Manager said that for manufacturers such as Erler-Zimmer, distributors are a cost-effective solution to penetrate remote markets or markets with barriers to entry. The best distributors have a detailed working knowledge of markets, feet on the road, as well as contacts and relationships, which the manufacturer may not have in specific markets. Having said that, for any manufacturer, the relationship with the distributor will be about looking to maximise sales.
He said: “In the case of Erler Zimmer’s relationship with the GCC distributor Leader Healthcare, we knew the company through previous working relationships. The most important criterion for us was finding a specialised distributor who is financially stable and committed to serving regional medical education needs for the long haul.
“The other key element of the relationship is getting feedback from customers to drive new product development. This won’t happen if the distributor is not in direct contact with the market, customer and the manufacturer. It is the icing on the cake when the distributor sees this as an integral element of the manufacturer-distributor relationship. For us, Leader Healthcare has ticked all the boxes and we look forward to the fun and action we have on the Leader Healthcare booth at Arab Health every year.”
Dealer and Distributor: Bringing innovative products to market
Erler-Zimmer’s key partnership with its distributor highlights the importance of building a relationship based on trust. Arab Health Magazine also spoke to Sukhdeep Sachdev, Global Chief Executive Officer, Leader Healthcare Group, UAE, to understand what goes on behind the scenes.
Leader Healthcare Group has a distribution portfolio of global brands dedicated to patient outcomes and quality of life. The initial business was import and distribution of capital medical equipment. Subsequently, the business has amalgamated expertise in turnkey solutions for simulation-based healthcare education, immersive tactical combat casualty environments, signature aesthetic and wellness centres, life support training centres, sensory environments for special children, to name a few.
Sukhdeep said: “The goal of the company is to support the national and international vision of healthcare excellence, thereby serving every being on this planet. The vision is to build a world where health and wellness is the norm.”
He explained that the factors kept in mind while selecting a product to distribute are – the alignment of the solution with regional vision and the commitment of the supplier towards healthcare excellence.
Sukhdeep gave the example of Erler Zimmer’s commitment to medical education. He highlighted: “The meticulously handcrafted models and 3D printed didactic models are a labour of love, the ultimate gift to a medical student striving to grasp the intricacies of the human body. Healthcare excellence is possible only when such suppliers continue the good work. Leader Healthcare endeavours to contribute by easing the entry of exceptional products and suppliers within the GCC markets.”
Another important factor is to select suppliers who innovate rather than suppliers who seek to follow a short-term trend. For example, when a unique product enters the market, similar products will soon flood the market. Distributors are tempted to cash in on the demand, often overlooking the stability of the suppliers of these ‘me too’ products.
He added: “The business of healthcare technology can serve the self and national interests only when suppliers and distributors set high standards for themselves. Our decision to work with companies such as Erler Zimmer is a reflection of their commitment to healthcare excellence.”
When asked about how the company promotes a particular product, he said: “Leader Healthcare utilises tradeshow platforms such as Arab Health, specialised workshops and product specialists who work closely with key opinion leaders (KOLs) in the region.”
In 2019, Leader Healthcare Group completed a decade of growth and market leadership. With 11 corporate oﬃces across 8 countries, and strategic partnerships across MENA, APAC and North America regions, the company is poised for the next decade of disruption and innovation. Through this impressive journey, Arab Health has been a consistent ally and growth partner for Leader Healthcare, he adds.
End-user: Making the right choice
In medical education, the right product is one which simplifies the interrelationships between man and medical intervention. These could be anatomical models, immersive experiences or learning software. The Millennials and Generation Z are a part of the education landscape on both sides – teaching and learning. Hence, additional criteria such as user experience and scalability need to be met. Khalifa University, UAE, has chosen Erler-Zimmer’s products to provide the perfect solution for their teaching and learning programmes.
A spokesperson from Khalifa University shared that before making a purchase, feedback is collected from faculty, staff and students, as it identifies the gap and the need.
When asked about after-sales support, the spokesperson commented, “In the UAE, after-sales support is legally binding on the seller and buyer of healthcare-related technology. So, in that sense, there isn’t much cause for concern. However, certain suppliers and distributors are especially committed to sales support excellence. The turnaround time and level of expertise offered by these suppliers and distributors make the relationship rewarding. Our decision to work with Leader Healthcare emerged partly from credible references in terms of after-sales support.
“Khalifa University has established the first medical college based in Abu Dhabi. Each year, Arab Health has been a platform to connect with exceptional suppliers in healthcare education technologies. Together, we can achieve healthcare excellence and align with the national vision of world-class healthcare in Abu Dhabi, the UAE and the GCC region,” the spokesperson concluded.