With technology constantly changing and new equipment and techniques for caring for patients being developed all the time, local health care facilities strive to keep up with the latest offerings.
"Obviously technology infiltrates almost everything in health care so it's critical in that aspect," said Jennifer Offenberger, director of marketing and public relations for the Memorial Health System. "The advances in technology today have enabled health care systems like ours to care for patients in a different way, saving lives and having better outcomes."
Telemedicine is one program that is being used currently by the health system. Through the program, physicians outside of the system are able to observe a stroke patient who has been admitted to Marietta Memorial Hospital through a computer camera and help determine if the patient is a good candidate for tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), a clot busting drug.
Photo submitted by Emily Hendershot.
A patient prepares to go into the 3T MRI scanner at Marietta Memorial Hospital. The scanner uses the most powerful magnet available for clinical use, producing very clear and detailed images of a person’s organs and tissues.
"This enables smaller communities like ours to access the sophistication or specialty of larger regional systems in terms of diagnosis and treatment," Offenberger said. "When a patient comes in with a potential stroke and they're in the narrow (time) window and you give them the clot busting drugs, their outcome is much better."
Dr. Richard Cain, a primary care physician with the Memorial Health System, said telemedicine is very helpful in diagnosing patients, as there are sometimes doctors outside the system who immediately recognize a certain condition because they come into contact with people regularly who have it.
"A lot of times I'll see a patient and have a good idea of what's going on but I may see it once a month or five times a year and they see it multiple times each day," he said.
Q&A: MRI supervisor offers insight
The 3 Tesla (3T) MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scanner is used at Marietta Memorial Hospital to provide doctors with detailed images of patients' organs and tissues.
Joni Kelley, the hospital's MRI Section Supervisor, operates the scanner regularly. She said it is a short bore system, which is 50 percent shorter and 5 percent wider than traditional MRI setups, allowing for increased patient comfort.
Q: What is unique about the 3T MRI scanner?
A: It's 3 Tesla - that's the magnet strength - and it's the strongest in the Mid-Ohio Valley. Most of them are a 1.5 (Tesla). That means it's stronger and we get really good pictures on it but also we have to check patient safety with implants and things like that.
Q: Can this scanner be used on anyone?
A: As long as they don't have certain implants like pacemakers or a defibrillator. Some heart stints aren't safe, but some are. There are a lot of implants that are fine with the metal they're made of. Some people think anyone with metal can't go in, but some can. Pacemakers normally aren't safe because it will drain the battery.
Q: How long does it take to get an MRI and how long does it take for patients to get results?
A: Most MRIs are 20 minutes or half hour, if not longer. They just have to lay real still. If it's an outpatient, our doctors say three to five days (for results). All the MRIs are read by radiologists in Columbus.
Q: Does the scanner do full-body scans, or focus only on certain regions?
A: We don't do whole body MRIs. It would take hours and hours. We just do one (body) part, or the doctor may order a couple.
Ashley Rittenhouse conducted this interview.
The health system also utilizes teleradiology, wherein board certified radiologists from across the state of Ohio who are affiliated with Riverside Radiology and Interventional Associates, Inc. are able to read diagnostic tests that have been done on local patients, such as an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging).
"The radiologists reading that can read it immediately and are specialized in the area we need them to be focusing on for the patient," Offenberger said. "Our radiologists here can read for anywhere else in the state and likewise we can have an MRI for a patient here being read by a radiologist in Columbus."
The 3T (tesla) MRI scanner is also being used by the health system. It uses the most powerful magnet available for clinical use, producing very clear and detailed images of a person's organs and tissues.
As for the future of technology in health care, there are already several things officials with the health system can see on the horizon.
Beginning in May, for example, the health system will begin its transition from the paper health record to the electronic health record (EHR).
"It'll make it a lot easier to get information between the doctors, nurses and families," Cain said. "The EHR is ease of information and speed of information."
Also on the horizon is utilization of medical applications for iPads and other devices.
Offenberger pointed out there are already medical applications that can track a person's weight, heart rate and blood pressure, but in the future, these will likely be used more and more by physicians to track patient health.
For instance, if a person has a heart condition or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), they can plug their device into a laptop and it will tell a nurse if the patient has gained water weight, which is an indication of a problem.
"More and more of that will make patients more educated and more involved and change the dynamic of how they receive their care," Offenberger said.
Cain added that there are programs being developed in which a person will be called at certain times throughout the day and asked if they have taken their medicine.
"It ultimately boils down to how can we help the patient get what they need," he said. "The home health nurse can only be there a limited period of time and when they come to the office I can't go home with them."
The use of robotics will also become increasingly popular in health care, Offenberger said.
For example, surgeons in some health systems manipulate computer controls when performing surgery rather than actually using a scalpel in their hand.
"It uses a tiny camera to direct the surgeon rather than them being there. People could literally from across the world do surgery on a patient," she said. "If you have a specialist and this is what they do every day but you don't have the specialist in (your) community there might be some value to that."
What's to come:
Medical applications on iPads and other devices will be used by doctors to monitor patient health.
Robotics will be used in surgery, allowing surgeons to perform surgery from any location.
Health care facilities will transition from the paper health record to the electronic health record.