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Local Hospitals Move to Higher Technology

February 21, 2011

WHEELING - As technology continues to improve in health services, particularly in diagnostic and treatment equipment, local hospitals continue to add the new innovations at their facilities.

George Couch, president and chief executive officer of Ohio Valley Health Services and Education Corp., the parent company of Ohio Valley Medical Center and East Ohio Regional Hospital, said he is "impressed" with what OVMC has done in upgrading. He specifically mentioned the recently implemented bedside verification system which uses a barcode to check patients medication.

"This is a big step forward in reducing medication errors," he said. "Without this technology, there is a definite increase in the possibility of errors. This system can call up alerts for each patent, side effects of medications, and alert to possible drug interactions."

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Dana Stanley, lab technician at Wheeling Hospital, places vials of material in the state-of-the-art automation tracker system. A number of other hospitals, including one in Mexico, have visited the lab to learn more about the system which is faster and more accurate. It is many modern improvements throughout the hospital.

Couch also touted the hospital's digital mammography for providing clearer images than in the past while exposing the patient to a lower dose of radiation. He said the facility's 64-slice CAT Scan also gives very high diagnostic 3-D images with lower doses of radiation than in the past.

"There are higher resolution scanners on the market today," he said, "but the benefit of the higher resolution is negligible. Until the price of them comes down we can continue to upgrade our existing technology to meet our demands."

At Wheeling Hospital, spokesman Gregg Warren said his facility continues its commitment to quality health care with new technologies that keep it at the forefront in the region's health care.

Fact Box

Are our local hospitals employing the latest in medical technology?

Yes, as many of the area's hospitals have committed to purchasing and implementing the latest technology for area patients. Some newer technologies include patient medication tracking systems, electronic records and new CT scanners.

He said Wheeling Hospital has the newest, most-advanced computer system in the region and a new method of performing cardiac catheterizations, and high-speed automation in the laboratory.

According to Warren, the revolutionary, new electronic medical records and clinical information computer system is being deployed through all areas of the hospital and will be one of the most significant steps the hospital has undertaken to enhance the level of care already provided to patients. The technology will be provided through every step of the patient's visit.

New technology can also be seen in the cardiac catheterization lab where access to heart arteries is gained through the patient's wrist. The procedure, known as transradial access, is minimally invasive and can be used on qualifying patients instead of accessing the arteries through the femoral artery located in the groin.

In the Wheeling Hospital laboratory, a new automation track system allows testing to be performed faster and more accurately, providing better service to physicians and patients, as well as improved turnaround times. The system streamlines and standardizes the lab workflow, delivering higher quality results, minimizing opportunities for error, and increasing productivity and efficiency.

At the Schiffler Cancer Center, several projects are in place for the coming year, including the installation of a new software treatment planning system in the radiation oncology division. The $600,000 Pinnacle treatment planning system replaces an older version with the promise of improved and expedited computer-based radiotherapy planning.

Schiffler also is at the technology forefront in its treatment of breast cancer.

Another new technology at the Schiffler Cancer Center involves state-of-the-art treatment of kidney cancer. Recently, Wheeling Hospital became the only hospital in West Virginia to use cryosurgery to treat cancer of the kidneys. Dr. Gregory Merrick, director of the hospital's Schiffler Cancer Center, and his team use minimally invasive surgery to freeze kidney tumors. With this procedure, as opposed to traditional surgery, there is minimal scarring, less pain and faster recovery.

The Schiffler Cancer Center also is using is the new Calypso System. Schiffler is one of only several centers in a multi-state region to utilize the system, the most advanced technology for treating prostate cancer. Known as "GPS for the body," Calpyso more precisely directs radiation to the tumor while sparing normal tissues, therefore reducing both short- and long-term side effects.

Another technology advancement is allowing Wheeling Hospital to work closer with area emergency squads to enhance patient care prior to arrival at the emergency room. Through the use of new, state-of-the-art equipment that works with virtually every type of communications used in emergency medicine, all EMS activities that take place in the hospital's Emergency Room are now integrated.

Wheeling Hospital and Belmont Community Hospital in Bellaire also offer the area's newest digital mammography equipment designed to provide faster, clearer and better results.

At Reynolds Memorial Hospital in Glen Dale, spokeswoman Melissa Marko said the facility has recently implemented the Meditech System, which will assist the facility in its move toward paperless, electronic patient medical records.

She also noted the hospital upgraded to the new state-of-the-art Picture Archive Communication System.

According to Radiology Director Paul Graham, the new photo imaging system "is one of the highest rated systems out there. It allows technicians to capture, store, distribute and manage images with much more efficiency than we were able to do with our old system," he said.

He explained the benefits will include enhanced care, more consultation possibilities and greater image record integrity. "It provides access to doctors outside the building anywhere in the world if they have Internet access," Graham said.

Since its installation, Graham said, "we have had strong positive feedback from the medical community." He also noted the hospital's installation of new ultrasound equipment capable of 3-D and 4-D imaging.

"It's all about technology," Graham concluded. "We're just a small community hospital, but our quality of service is high and all our equipment is modern."

Trinity Health Systems in Steubenville is also continuing to add new technologies. Barb Banfield, director of Nursing Critical Care, cited new cardio-vascular capabilities.

"This year and last year we have focused on the diagnostic side and added a new critical care unit. We've also done upgrading to the emergency side where we are able to receive pre-hospital EKGs. This allows us to mobilize and have our resources in place even before a patient gets to the hospital," she said.

"The hospital has also recently opened a new cardio-vascular laboratory, which allows us to do cardio-vascular catherazations and perform peripheral vascular diagnostic testing with intervention. In the past if a patient had issues with a blockage of arteries, the only way that could be treated was with surgery. Now in this peripheral lab doctors can diagnose and actively treat blockages without surgery."

Another addition she noted is the electro-physiology lab that allows diagnosis and treatment of irregular heartbeats. The hospital has also started new treatments for arterial fibrolation which had only been treated with medication in the past.

Trinity Health System's Cancer Treatment capabilities grew substantially with the construction of the Teramana Cancer Center in 2000. Since then, thousands of residents of the tri-state area have received cancer treatment at the facility. Two state-of-the-art Linear Accelerators are used in the treatment of cancer, with capabilities to perform Image Guided Radiation Therapy, Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy and kV cone beam imagine. A dedicated CT Simulator is also used for treatment planning.

The center also boasts a new PET/CT machine. Trinity has invested in a unique PET/CT system that has high definition software and features the oncology engine, which optimizes lesion detection and staging. The PET/CT unit also is ntegrated with the treatment planning system, giving physicians better tools to help decide on each individual's care.

Wetzel County Hospital Interim Chief Executive Officer Brian Felici said his hospital is "planning the implementation of significant improvements to its information systems in order to comply with the new federal government requirements for computerization of the medical record. While the challenges for rural hospitals are significant, Wetzel County Hospital is well positioned for the future."

The hospital recently installed the Aquilion 32 from America Medical Systems. The advanced computed tomography system is used for evaluating and treating trauma patients. The new system can quickly scan any region of the body for injury in just seconds, providing the essential information needed to evaluate patients that show up to the emergency room with possible internal injuries. The system will also allow the hospital to significantly increase its exam capacity.

The Wetzel County Hospital has also become one of the first small rural hospitals in West Virginia to offer open bore magnetic resonance imaging. It will make it easier for large patients and those with claustrophobia to have an MRI examination and therefore produce higher quality images.

Pam Deel, hospital radiology director, said, "This is going to increase our efficiency and patient convenience."

The hospital also offers digital mammography and has installed a state-of-the-art medication dispensing and control system that performs general and special chemistry testing on a single platform and represents another step forward in patient services.

At Weirton Medical Center, spokesman Kevin Brown said keeping up with developing medical technology is a primary challenge for hospitals today. Purchasing and installing new technology often requires additional expense for facility renovation or construction to accommodate the technology, as well as the expense of staff training or recruitment of new staff with advanced skills.

He said adoption of new technology must be carefully planned. In order to gain a reasonable return-on-investment, hospitals must be assured that they can afford the initial purchase and the costs of renovation and staff training/recruitment. They must also consider the volume of procedures that will be performed, the local patient base, as well as the referral patterns of medical staff.

Despite these considerations, technology that is carefully planned can be a boon to a hospital and the patients it serves. Having locally available technology can save residents commuting time to hospitals outside the area. It can also reduce the waiting time for patients to receive new diagnostic procedures or treatment techniques.

Weirton Medical Center offered PET/CT scans in 2010 with a new PET/CT system, which is positron emission tomography combined with a computer-assisted tomography. The advantage of the new PET/CT scanner is early and highly accurate detection of cancer.

The images obtained with PET/CT are not available with other technologies, such as X-ray, MRI, or CT alone. The difference lies in the ability of the PET/CT equipment to combine or "fuse" the images of the PET scanner (metabolic function of cells) with the CT scanner (anatomic location of body structures) into one extremely detailed image.

The hospital also has a fixed MRI unit wth a 1.0 Tesla magnet, which is considered a high field strength magnet providing excellent diagnostic images. The unit is capable of a full spectrum of MRI studies, the most common being lumbar spine, knee, shoulder and the brain. Patients should be aware when scheduling an MRI that many of the free-standing MRI facilities offer only low field strength magnets, which result in reduced quality and resolution of the diagnostic images.

Also in 2010, Weirton Medical Center launched a new reconstructive and plastic surgery service line. An early technology purchase to support the service was the new VASER ultrasonic liposuction unit. An alternative to traditional liposuction, VASER Lipo uses advanced ultrasound technology to gently reshape the body.

"We are getting amazing results with VASER Lipo," plastic surgeon Dr. Craig Oser said. "Our patients are happier right away because they start to see results immediately after the surgery. With VASER Lipo, I get predictable outcomes with excellent skin tightening and patients have less bruising and less downtime."

In May 2010, Weirton Medical Center, in partnership with 3M, completed the transition to a paperless medical records system.

Also in May, Weirton Medical Center started using a new automated blood bank analyzer in its laboratory. The unit is called the Tango Optimo System by Bio Rad and offers fully automated blood group serology testing. The unit can process from one to 144 samples at a time in a simple, flexible operation with a low operating cost, and increased productivity.

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