Designed-led advanced manufacturing of smart orthotics for remote Australia

CRC-P | Designed-led advanced manufacturing of smart orthotics for remote Australia

Project dates: 2021 - 2025

Why it matters

Patient compliance with using prescribed footwear is a critical problem within the current service model, with impacts including patients’ unsuccessful recovery and higher risk of amputation. DFD patients typically fail to comply due to long wait times post-surgery in receiving prescribed footwear, and due to footwear being inadequate to the context of their everyday life activities.

NEWS ARTICLE ON THE PROJECT: The Sentiment | 22 February 2022

Project Overview

The project focuses on improving the supply chain of podiatric footwear for Diabetic Foot Disease (DFD) patients in regional hospitals by involving leading QLD based SMEs specialised in digital manufacturing technologies for footwear components, and by employing a transformative service design approach to develop an enhanced supply chain across regional hospitals, industry, and key stakeholders that allows relevant input from specialists and patients in the prescribed footwear components design, manufacturing and delivery.

The proposed enhanced supply chain would: (i) reduce the waiting time for DFD patients in receiving prescribed footwear components; and (ii) support the production of footwear solutions that are fabricated considering DFD patients’ personal requirements utilising advanced manufacturing workflows. This project was initiated at Mt Isa North West Hospital and Health Service, and therefore, it aims to engage the indigenous community – chiefly the Kalkadoon people of the Mt Isa region of Queensland. This project involves iOrthotics; a QLD based SME specialised in the use of advanced manufacturing processes for custom made orthotic devices for podiatrists. They are leading digital technology applications in foot/cast scanning, computer aided design and manufacturing, as well as 3D printing. As part of the Allied Health group, Healthia Limited, which includes services across, Podiatry, Rehabilitation, Advanced Manufacturing and Distribution they are well placed to assess and implement critical change in the assessment, design and manufacture of customised prescription footwear components to improve regional DFD patient outcomes.

iOrthotics is a leader in advanced manufacturing for orthotics. Collaboration with Mt Isa Hospital and the Kalkadoon people can provide a unique opportunity to gain insight into the realities of DFD care and constraints within regional communities. The project aims to enable the extension and testing of the current digital workflows employed by iOrthotics to regional areas, and the issues/opportunities this presents. Such as extending current service models to include remote 3D scanning; on-demand 3D printing; to distribution models for regional patients.

The project focuses on twin objectives:

  1. Optimising a patient-centric supply chain of podiatric footwear for DFD patients in regional hospitals by utilising advanced manufacturing workflows.
  2. Improving access and timeliness of clinical data about use and treatment effectiveness of custom orthotics by incorporating wearable sensors and smart technologies

Most patient feedback today is subjective, and remote patients do not have easy access to clinicians’ point of care to make observations of treatment effectiveness. By utilising human-centric designed digital workflows, advanced manufacturing and intelligent technologies, we aim to reduce time to supply devices, improve patient outcomes, and collect objective, quantitative data to inform clinical decision-making.

Funding / Grants  

Cooperative Research Centres Projects Round 11 – $2,004,034 (2021-2025)

QUT Design Lab team and iOrthotics Pty Ltd (QLD) have been grant of $2,044,034 through the CRC Projects scheme to advance the manufacturing of smart orthotics to reduce diabetes related amputations. Emerging from Design Lab HEAL Program, this project exploring the complex challenges in assessment and prescription of orthotics for remote consumers with diabetic feet was ignited by Dr Sarah Bohan at Mt Isa Hospital. Along with QUT Center of Biomedical Technologies and in partnership with i-Orthotics and University of QLD, the project involves advanced manufacturing and industry 4.0 technologies for the development of smart orthotics.

Project Team

Project Partners

  • Dean Heatley, MyFootDr, Healthia Group
  • Damian Vasallo, i-Orthotics Pty Ltd
  • Dr Gui Wang, University of Queensland
  • Dr Sarah Bohan, Mt Isa Hospital, North West Hospital Services (NWHS)