SOUTHERN INDIANA — Robotic assistants, software applications and NICU equipment are
just a few of the ways technology has been improving in the world of healthcare in the last few years.
Southern Indiana has seen an introduction of these new technologies allowing for improved treatment and recovery from premature-born babies to adults.
The influx of technology at Clark Memorial Health has allowed for the hospital to become a level two newborn intensive care unit, or NICU.
Judy Stewart is the Clark Memorial Health director of women’s health services and NICU, and
she has referred to the services they provide in the department as the hospital’s well kept secret.
When Stewart started as director in 2018, the NICU had just opened at the hospital as a level two out of four levels, meaning it can provide advanced newborn care.
Before it opened, the hospital had to get all of the necessary equipment new, including updated warmers, isolettes or incubators, feeding pumps and antibody pumps.
The equipment was not cheap and did not appear overnight.
Stewart said it took about six to nine months to get all of the equipment after getting the necessary OK’s and securing funding.
“These particular pieces of equipment are very expensive. An isolette can cost you up to $70,000, a radiant warmer about $18,000 to $20,000…A pump can cost you $3,000 or $4,000,” she said.
Though the pieces were purchased four years ago, Stewart said that they are still very up to date with the technology in the department. She also noted that they have a good team of biomedical technicians that are well versed in all of the equipment if any problems arise.
With the equipment the hospital has now, Stewart said that they are able to care for the majority of the babies in the hospital without issues. The only times a baby would have to be transferred to a higher level NICU is if they have to be intubated.
As a level two NICU, they focus on antibody needs, body temperature control, feeding and respiratory support.
The hospital purchased two Giraffe warming stations and three Giraffe OmniBed carestations, or incubators, that aid premature babies in growth.
“With a baby that is very small, between 32-36 weeks or so, and they’re not able to keep their temperature up on their own, they have to be placed into an incubator, such as an OmniBed Carestation, which we can control the temperature for them,” Stewart said.
The NICU staff can also focus on feeding the babies while they are controlling their temperatures in the carestations. They have four Medela feeding pumps that allow them to safely feed premature babies that cannot take food by mouth.
When it comes to respiratory support for these babies, Stewart said that they have Vapotherm, a non-invasive high-velocity ventilation therapy to help them receive oxygen.
Down the road, Stewart said she would like to see the hospital become a level three NICU. As the third highest level NICU, the hospital could care for babies born at less than 32 weeks gestation and babies born with critical illness.
In order to reach that level, Stewart said the hospital needs a bubble CPAP machine that helps with ventilation and airflow.
“If we can get to that level then that would be exciting because then we could keep ventilated babies here for a short period of time instead of having to transfer them,” Stewart said.
Keeping patients and doctors in Southern Indiana is a big benefit to the growing technology at these county hospitals.
ROBOTICS EXPANDING BAPTIST HEALTH CAPABILITIES
Baptist Health Floyd has a number of surgical robots that are allowing them to take on more cases.
The hospital’s director of hospital operation and emergency preparedness, Brian Cox, said that before the robots the hospital saw their surgeons going to Louisville for work.
Cox said when thinking about getting the robots they considered what kind of volume they could have at the hospital and what kind of surgeries could be completed with them.
“The business case basically played out to be [that] we could have those here, use them, increase volume to the hospital and also provide the patients with a better outcome,” he said.
Not only do the robots allow the hospital to increase its volume, but they also provide quicker recovery times and less pain for patients.
The da Vinci Surgical System was the first robotic equipment Baptist Health Floyd saw when it was introduced to the hospital in August of 2021.
Not even a year later the hospital now has two da Vinci robots, an ExcelsiusGPS, a robotic neurosurgical system, a CORI Surgical System and a ROSA Knee System that are both used for orthopedic operations.
The hospital is the only one in Southern Indiana that offers robotic-assisted surgery.
In March, Baptist Health Floyd celebrated their 250th operation using the one da Vinci robot they had at the time.
At the celebration, hospital president Mike Schroyer said that people in the community are excited about being able to stay in state to receive treatment.
With the robots acting as assistants to surgeons, they have alleviated some of the pressure of worker shortages happening in hospitals all across the country.
But while the robots have helped the hospital to adapt to the shortages, they also act as a recruitment tool to employ more doctors.
Baptist Health Floyd also saw the introduction of MedSitters in March, a new technology that keeps tabs on patients.
The MedSitter is located in patient rooms and has a camera with two-way audio capabilities for the patient to communicate with a nurse that sits at a command center. The health professional at the command center can monitor up to six patients at a time, versus having one staff member per patient.
“It’s worked great with us, especially with hiring issues and being able to have staff just sitting with patients and monitoring them,” Cox said.
Along with equipment advancements, the hospitals have also benefited from software upgrades for both doctors and patients.
OTHER WAYS TECH HELPS
Stewart noted that in the department at Clark Memorial Health they got an iPad application in the fall of 2019 called AssessPro that guides nurses through assessments of babies’ health.
“We have been for many years looking at the Modified Finnegan Scoring tool for neonatal abstinence syndrome babies and we would always look at over 30 different symptoms but with the AssessPro we’re only looking at six symptoms that affect growth,” she said.
The app walks nurses through what needs to be done to assess the babies and can make recommendations about whether they need treatment or further monitoring.
Baptist Health Floyd has begun to implement technology that makes it easier for patients to understand their care both inside and outside of the hospital.
In 2019, the hospital joined Epic Medical Records, which powers MyChart that gives people direct access to their medical information, have virtual appointments and message their healthcare providers.
With a boom in telehealth visits and use of MyChart since the start of the pandemic, Cox said that it appears that patients are more aware of their health status in general.
“The patients having that information easily consumable on their smartphone or online and a lot of the nice features of MyChart, for instance, you can track and trend lab results and things yourself, make it very useful, and it’s put in a way that the patient can understand,” Cox said.
He gave the example of lab values on MyChart being depicted in a range so that patients don’t have to interpret their results without a basis of what is considered to be standard.
Looking to the future, Cox named a few advancements he is excited to see take place in the hospital when it comes to technology.
One of those is a technology for dictation that would take notes for doctors while they are having conversations with patients. Cox said that this would improve interactions between patients and healthcare providers.
“The doctor is having a conversation with a patient while the system is listening and basically doing the notes for the doctor. There’s some new advancements so that it’s less of the provider sitting there on the computer talking to you and maybe not having as good of a connection,” he
Advancements in imaging equipment and more types of robotic surgical systems also stuck out to Cox as technologies he is excited to see improve.
While technology can be an intimidating feature for people in all fields, Stewart noted that the younger generation of healthcare professionals are very tech savvy.
As individuals in this generation that grew up using technology begin to start their careers, they help to spark innovation as hospitals gain updated equipment and utilize newer technology.
“These young nurses, they’re not afraid of technology. The beauty of it is they also have great recommendations,” Stewart said, “They’re constantly thinking of ways to improve the systems that we have now.”
The more advanced technology gives those working in the hospital setting more confidence, according to Stewart.
“If you have the right equipment it does make your job easier,” she said, “To know that you’re providing the very best care to your patients, because you are, when you’re providing that care you know that you’re giving that care with cutting edge technology.”