3D Printing, Extended Reality, and Tech Advancements in Medicine Education

By Katie Brenneman, Writer, Researcher
Twitter: @KatieBWrites93

Technological advancements are frequently changing the medical landscape. Facility administrators and professionals need to keep on top of these to ensure all stakeholders gain the most positive outcomes. However, it’s important to recognize that tech isn’t just useful in day-to-day healthcare activities.

Medical education can also be enhanced by advanced tech. Elements such as 3D printing and extended reality (XR), among others, are becoming familiar parts of the health education fields. By understanding how these tools can help education — both in schools and for on-site refresher training — healthcare facilities and related organizations can prioritize their use in cultivating more capable and confident providers.

Minimizing Human Error

Medicine is a particularly risky field, where mistakes can have significant consequences. They can impact patients’ lives, disrupt efficiency, and attract lawsuits. It is, therefore, vital for organizations to adopt tools and practices that reduce the potential for human error. This can include automating repetitive tasks, backing up information on the cloud, and increasing oversight with monitoring processes. Advanced tech tools support these practices. Introducing students and professionals to this tech as early as possible can get them used to confidently integrating supportive tools into their professional lives.

Some key elements include:

3D Printed Anatomical Models
3D printers today are capable of creating accurate anatomical models. This can be a particularly important resource for reducing human errors during surgical planning. It’s important to teach students and professionals how to utilize scanned patient imagery alongside modeling software to print detailed copies of elements being operated on. This allows them to create more tailored surgical plans, thereby minimizing the potential for mistakes.

Cloud Storage Platforms
The medical landscape is increasingly adopting electronic patient records. A large amount of medical literature is also being scanned or created from scratch in digital formats. When these elements are stored on cloud platforms, medical professionals can have access to key data when and wherever they need it via mobile devices. This can reduce errors by eliminating inefficiencies in gaining vital information. Providing students and professionals with access to comprehensive cloud platforms can give them the tools they need to thrive.

A Multifaceted Training Approach

Practical training is essential for any medical student or professional. However, there are certain inherent challenges in interacting with patients in training scenarios. Extended reality (XR) — which combines virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) — is proving invaluable in this regard. By providing a multifaceted approach to practical training, technology reduces risks, helps build experience, and boosts confidence.

The key applications here include:

Surgical Practice
XR tools are already being used to introduce trainee surgeons to hands-on experiences. VR headsets provide simulations of different scenarios, allowing learners to fully explore the theater environment, patient anatomy, and surgical techniques in a risk-free space. 3D-printed organs and other physical elements can be incorporated into this XR experience to simulate the tactile sensations that accompany the surgical processes. There’s also the potential for instructors to offer in-simulation guidance along the way.

Patient-Centered Care
Empathy is an integral part of patient-centered care. Unfortunately, not all students or professionals are naturally imbued with the kind of sensitive bedside manner that can make a difference in patient outcomes. VR is being used to simulate interactions with patients in a range of challenging scenarios so learners can build their empathetic skill sets. Some facilities are also providing learners with AR headsets fitted with cameras so footage of interactions with patients can be transmitted live to instructors, who can in turn offer real-time feedback.

Addressing Current Healthcare Challenges

Today’s medical professionals face a range of distinct challenges. While technology alone doesn’t always necessarily solve all these difficulties, it can be instrumental in empowering professionals to address them more effectively. By incorporating information about potential solutions into educational situations, schools, and facilities can teach providers to better overcome these issues. This may result in better productivity and staff retention, which is good for all stakeholders.

Some of the issues being addressed include:

Access to resources
Patients from tougher socioeconomic circumstances not having equal access to resources is a problem for both service users and medical professionals. Though the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is hesitant about bio-medical 3D printing, this technology is already showing potential for more affordable prosthetics and implants. In the future, this is expected to extend further to produce tissue and organs. Getting a thorough understanding of the applications of 3D printing can mean professionals can better advise patients on options that align with their financial situations.

Accurate and timely diagnosis
Diagnosis is a challenging process at the best of times. Yet, time is often of the essence to ensure patients can access interventions when they’ll be most impactful. Physicians’ knowledge and experience are essential in this regard. However, the speed and accuracy of diagnoses can also be supported by artificial intelligence (AI) driven diagnostic platforms. These systems analyze symptoms and test results alongside vast volumes of data from across the industry to provide suggestions to physicians. Learning how to collaborate effectively with these systems can enable students and professionals to offer patients swifter and more effective treatment.


Integrating advanced technologies into various aspects of health education has the potential to benefit patients, facilities, and professionals alike. 3D printing is already showing promise both in minimizing human errors and providing more affordable care options.

That said, it is also vital not to simply rely on technology in educational scenarios. There is enormous value in human experience, insights, and guidance. In assessing potential technology for training purposes, facilities must look at how these can integrate into current human-driven processes, rather than replace them.