High-tech equipment aiding hospitals

LONGMONT — Three hospitals in the region have recently invested in new technology to help them stand out from the competition.

Patients who have stroke symptoms can be seen by a neurologist as soon as they enter the emergency room at Longmont United Hospital — even though the neurologist may be miles away.

The hospital is using a remote presence robotics machine manufactured by InTouch Health in California that works similar to Skype video conferencing services commonly used on laptop computers. The machine offers two-way audio and video conferencing. It’s on a wheeled cart, so that it can be moved to the bedside of a patient in the emergency department, in intensive care, or anywhere else it’s needed at the hospital, said Karen Logan, a hospital spokeswoman.

Neurologists at Blue Sky Neurology in Englewood are partners in the telemedicine service, which came with the hospital’s acquisition of the machine, Logan said. The hospital pays an annual fee of $75,000 for the service, Logan said.

Since an estimated 30,000 brain cells die per second during a stroke, anything that helps make evaluation and treatment go more quickly can help a stroke patient’s outcomes. The machine has been used six times since the hospital started using it on Wednesday, Jan. 1, Logan said.

Herbert Ogden, the hospital’s medical director, lauded the quick interaction available through the machine.

“Every second counts in minimizing the damage a stroke can cause to the brain — quick assessment and critical medical decision-making are important to optimize patient outcomes,” Ogden said in a press statement.

Scanning and mapping

Exempla Good Samaritan Medical Center in Lafayette has made a host of capital investments on new machines and specialized laboratories in the last year, including two new types of three-dimensional imaging machines – a PET, or positron emission tomography, scanner, and the CARTO mapping machine, trademarked by the health-care company Biosense Webster, Inc. but sold by General Electric Co.

Hospital administrators bought the CARTO machine to support the hospital’s $3.8 million electrophysiology laboratory, said Jeanette Smith, Exempla’s director of cardiovascular services. Electrophysiology measures electrical impulses in the body, most commonly in the heart.

The latest CARTO-trademarked system allows the user to see catheters in the human body displayed on a computer screen. It’s faster than previous systems, moving as quickly as a doctor or technician can move a catheter, according to information on the GE website.

The electrophysiology lab has had higher-than-projected use since it opened in the second quarter of 2013, which has validated the need for the equipment, Smith said. Electrophysiology lab patients previously were referred to sister Exempla hospitals in the Denver metro area, she said.

In connection with the new laboratory, Exempla Good Samaritan Medical Center hired a new elctrophysiologist, who is able to handle more heart-disease-related procedures than previously were offered at the hospital, in coordination with the hospital’s existing cardiology team of doctors, she said.
Hospital administrators also invested in an MRA, or a magnetic resonance angiography machine, which uses imaging to highlight vessels in the human body, Smith said.

Laboratory makeovers

Boulder Community Hospital plans to spend as much as $7 million on equipment to outfit new laboratories at its Foothills campus, president David Gehant said in December. The hospital plans to move all primary services to the Foothills location at 4747 Arapahoe Ave., from its current location at 1100 Balsam Ave. by Oct. 31.

Specialized laboratories at the new location will include an electrophysiology lab, two cardiac catheterization labs and a radiographic interventional suite with equipment used to help diagnose and treat vessels in patient extremeties, Gehant said.

A cardiac catheterization lab allows a doctor to insert a catheter into a chamber or vessel of the heart, either to diagnose heart disease issues, or to intervene in them.

Avista Adventist Hospital is not making major capital investments on machinery at this time, said Suzanne Burlage, the hospital’s marketing manager.

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