STEUBENVILLE - Local hospitals made large strides in improving patient care last year, and more is on the way in the future.
At Trinity Health Systems in Steubenville, a focus on minimally invasive robotic-assisted surgery, the establishing and growth of an orthopedics and spine institute and continuing to advance in the fields of teleconsultation were among new efforts.
Trinity's Orthopedics and Spine Institute, led by doctors with various specialties in orthopedics and spine treatment, saw a new ankle replacement performed by Dr. Stephen Conti, a Pittsburgh-based physician who serves Trinity.
Nurse Manager Harmony Mayle at Wheeling Hospital’s Melanoma Screening Center demonstrates how the FotoFinder technology is used to better detect melanoma. The device is one of the many new technologies introduced at the hospital during the past year.
The institute also includes Dr. Thomas Hughes of Pittsburgh, who has a specialty in shoulders, elbows and hands, and Dr. Milton Swaby, a physiatrist, who has non-surgical treatments and oversees the physical rehabilitation unit at Trinity Medical Center East; Dr. Mark Fye, a spine surgeon from Pittsburgh; and lead physician Dr. Kumar Amin.
What the combined skills and talents of the team at the Trinity Orthopedics and Spine Institute brings is the opportunity for patients to undergo surgery from specialists in the kinds of surgeries that used to require trips out of town, including high ankle work, shoulders and delicate hand surgeries. Patients also can undergo their rehabilitation locally as well, with physical and occupational therapists available.
"These guys are also giving new emphasis to what was an already good program in workers' comp and sports medicine," said Steve Brown, vice president of Trinity's Management Services Organization. Brown said area employers will be invited to participate in a workers' comp seminar on April 4. An overview of the Trinity program will be offered.
Another expansion during the past year was in the sports medicine program. The work of Dr. Michael Scarpone and his group, in treatment and injury prevention, is well-respected locally, and has become more fully integrated into Trinity.
The sports medicine program is involved with local schools, with a service contract with six area schools for their athletic programs. School athletic trainers have monthly meetings with hospital staff, and an athletic combine is being planned for the near future. The combine will, like the NFL combine, establish baselines for high school athletes in a variety of efforts, such as their baseline jump or 40-yard-dash time before their freshman year. They can then track recovery from injuries
Dr. Justin Baker, a chiropractic doctor with expertise in performance, is involved with the program.
Hospital spokesman Keith Murdock said the sports medicine program already had a focus on head injury, establishing healthy baselines for youth athletes to compare as they recover from injuries. There also is an ACL strengthening program to help deter injuries to knee ligaments that are often problematic for athletes, Murdock noted.
The year also saw the first surgeries from the daVinci robotically assisted surgical system. By year's end, 122 robotically assisted cases were treated with the minimally invasive surgeries enabled by the system. Drs. Patrick Macedonia and Sam Licata have been joined by Dr. Manuel Ballas in being certified to use the system, which serves for general surgery and gynecological surgery.
Also coming in electronic medicine is a new patient portal that will allow patients to access their medical information online. Trinity already is participating in a health information exchange, with information shared between providers and the hospital electronically.
The switch to electronic records was part of a government mandate to show meaningful use of such systems.
Brown said the initial push was for the sharing of electronic records among health providers, but the expense has helped grow the Trinity physician network.
"We are blessed with a loyal group of physicians. Our employed physicians' network has grown over the past three years. We are bringing value and are physician friendly," he said. "It's harder to be in private practice because the costs continue to escalate and the reimbursements continue to decline."
As a self-proclaimed "community hospital," the Ohio Valley Medical Center not only seeks to serve patients with its programs but also considers physicians and employees' desire for the best technology to do so.
"It's part of our mission to provide quality, compassionate and state-of-the-art, family centered health care," said OVMC Chief Administrative Officer Kelly Bettem. "We also are striving to update several areas of our facility like our adult behavior health services (and) ICU waiting room."
Officials at OVMC said the success of the hospital's service is best measured by its patients who now have access to a higher quality of care and more advanced technologies in the region.
Last year the hospital's stride in cancer care spoke for itself as the Cancer Center at OVMC earned the outstanding achievement award from the Commission on Cancer through its 2012 survey. Only 79 cancer programs in the country received the award that year.
The Cancer Center experienced further improvements in 2013 including increased community outreach. Approximately 3,000 individuals were educated on prevention, screening and early detection of cancer. A colorectal program was held in December to offer education specific to colorectal cancer, as well as screening resources for individuals attending.
As Driving for a Cure donated $15,000 to support the implementation of breast MRI at OVMC, the hospital was also on the receiving side of cancer care efforts. Availability for the new service is set tentatively for March. OVMC officials believe the service will greatly benefit women by allowing them to remain in the area for specialized breast imaging procedure.
OVMC's Radiology Department welcomed new state-of-the-art radiology equipment in 2013, making the entire department digital. Two diagnostic imaging suites added to the quality and efficiency of patient services.
East Ohio Regional Hospital, also owned by OVMC's parent company, Ohio Valley Health Services & Education Corp., also expanded its services. EORH now provides patients with Hemodialysis and Peritoneal Dialysis through the Wheeling Renal Care Physicians. Unique to EORH, the hospital now provides stroke management in collaboration with Ohio Health via telemedicine; it is the only telemedicine stroke program in the area.
Both EORH and OVMC received awards for organ, tissue and cornea donation.
Also continuing with a patient-centered focus is Wheeling Hospital. In 2013, the hospital kept pace with the latest technology for labor and delivery, audiology, and bladder and skin cancers.
Wheeling Hospital was the first in the region to use PeriCALM Plus, an electronic system designed to increase patient safety and decrease risks during the birthing process. Specifically, the software monitors contractions and fetal heart rate to further assist physicians and nurses with caring for mothers in labor.
Adding to the facility being at the forefront of technology, Wheeling Hospital became just one of 15 hospitals in the country in 2013 to use Cysview blue light cystoscopy. The technology, now available to urologists through Wheeling Hospital's Center for Urology, improves bladder cancer detection. During a cystoscopy test, doctors use a thin, lighted instrument called a cystoscope to examine the inside of a patient's bladder and urethra. Its unique design lies in its blue light construction which allows urologists to detect lesions that may not be visible with white light used in typical cystoscopes.
Also in cancer care, in 2013 Wheeling Hospital became the only health care facility in the Wheeling-Steubenville-Pittsburgh area, as well as the entire state of West Virginia, to use the FotoFinder Bodystudio system for the prevention, early diagnosis and aftercare of skin cancer. In 10 minutes, the technology can document the whole skin surface using photography for total mapping of pigmented skin lesions. A digital dermoscope allows physicians to capture microscopic images of moles as well as overview images to localize moles and find them on subsequent visits. The mole-mapping technology, allowing for comparisons of baseline and follow-up pictures, is a reliable way to track changes over time and detect early signs of skin cancer.
Wheeling Hospital's Center for Audiology became the first facility in West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania to use the latest technology for head impulse testing, the ICS Impulse from Otometrics. The equipment is used to better evaluate patients' balance.
"Previously, we could only calculate the function of the horizontal balance canal for each ear. Now I can evaluate all six semicircular (balance) canals. This ultimately will help us tailor rehabilitation strategies for better outcomes," said Dr. Brandon Lichtman, director of the Center for Audiology.
Wheeling Hospital also was ranked among the safest health care organizations in the nation, according to SafeCare Group.
No other hospital in the region or the state of West Virginia made the list in the 100 SafeCare Hospitals ranking.
While announcing the designation, Wheeling Hospital CEO Ron Violi, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Angelo Georges and Director of Quality Management Heidi Porter credited the recognition to the hospital's high standards.
"Among (factors considered for recognition) is the ability to keep in-hospital and surgical infection rates very low," Violi said. "These types of accomplishments are due to our staff members' commitment to maintaining a premium level of patient care. They deserve our thanks."
Hospitals included among the 100 SafeCare Hospitals had the lowest risk-adjusted rates of complications in medical and surgical care; lowest rates of in-hospital infections; lowest rates of surgical infections; lowest risk-adjusted in-hospital mortality rates; lowest readmission rates; lowest overutilization of radiation tests; highest care processes; and highest patient satisfaction scores.
At Belmont Community Hospital in Bellaire, officials are displaying "The Green Chair" as a symbol of the need for more people to register to become organ donors.
On loan from Donate Life Ohio, the chair represents the fact that 2,000 Ohioans have died over the past 10 years waiting for a transplant. With the theme of "Don't Let Another Chair Go Empty," the display's goal is to remind visitors to BCH of the 3,400 Ohioans currently waiting for a life-saving transplant.
"The thought of seeing an empty chair where a sister, father, husband or daughter once sat is heart breaking. But it's the reality for the families of the many Ohioans who die each year waiting for a life-saving organ," said Terry Rinkes, Belmont's nurse manager. "The Donate Life Ohio Green Chair brings to mind the many different people affected by organ, eye and tissue donation."
Organs that can be donated by a deceased donor include: kidneys, heart, liver, lungs, pancreas and small intestine. Tissues that can be donated include: heart valves, corneas, skin, bone, ligaments, tendons, nerves, fascia, middle ear bones and veins. A living donor can give a kidney, or a portion of the liver, lung, small intestine or pancreas.