Advancements in technology at both local hospital systems have improved patient care and can be effective recruitment tools.
At Lutheran Hospital, a team of nurses has completed the first stage of specialized training in a potentially life-saving therapy for patients with cardiac and/or lung complications.
To that end, 16 nurses in the cardiovascular intensive care unit recently began training for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO. This is a specialized procedure that is used when a patient has a condition that prevents the lungs and/or heart from working properly. The hallmark of the procedure is a machine that takes over the work of these vital organs until the patient recovers. Highly trained nursing staff are available 24/7 to provide this care, as a result of the advanced training.
These nurses have been particularly empowered by this experience, as they now have the knowledge to assume a role that was previously reserved for perfusionists solely. These are specialized healthcare professionals who operate the heart-lung machine during cardiac and other surgeries. Such providers will continue to have a role in the care of ECMO patients, however the nursing team will be more directly responsible for managing the ECMO circuit at the bedside.
ECMO allows the team to meet patients where they are, so to speak. The ECMO process has two modes to serve a wider population, according to Jennifer Minnick, nurse manager of the cardiovascular intensive care unit at Lutheran.
“For example, if a patient’s lung function is greatly compromised, we can put them on ECMO in their own room – bypassing their lungs, oxygenating the blood and returning it to their system,” she said. The other mode provides advanced cardiac support in a similar way.
The executive director of cardiac, ICU and neuroscience services Joyce Walz, who has been with Lutheran for 20 years, says this training represents the hospital’s dedication to providing the most advanced level of patient care. It is also a boon to the patient in the form of talent attraction.
“We’ve already seen examples where nurses have sought us out as a result of this investment in specialized training and technology. They want to go more in depth with their scope of care, and Lutheran makes that possible.”
Minnick offers similar comments, noting that Lutheran is the only facility in northern Indiana to provide patients with advanced ventricular assist device and heart transplant programs. This is critical to patients wanting to receive care locally and have the support of their family at the same time.
Speaking of support, this factor plays a key role in patient outcomes. Telemedicine, or virtual health, is a relatively new avenue in medicine that Parkview Health has adopted and made available to the community. According to Senior Vice President of Neurosciences and Virtual Health Jolynn Suko, generally speaking it’s “a way to provide patients access to traditional and non-traditional care through the use of technology. It may be seeing a primary care doctor in a video visit, or using technology to schedule an appointment online – much like you would purchase a plane ticket.”
Parkview’s use of telemedicine is “evolving,” but she offers one more established case study that has yielded favorable results. Since 2008, the StrokeCareNow Network (SCNN) has been an effective tool to deliver stroke care, especially in rural areas. This initiative is a joint venture between Parkview, Lutheran and the Fort Wayne Neurological Center. The SCNN makes the expertise of the physicians of the Fort Wayne Neurological Center (FWNC) virtually available to all stroke patients in real time who are cared for in participating network hospitals across Northern Indiana, Northwestern Ohio, and Southern Michigan.
In Suko’s words, “it’s a way to meet the patient where they are”—sometimes literally.
The hospital is looking to expand into other areas related to telemedicine over the next two years. A 2016 state bill implemented a variety of telemedicine practice standards and remote prescribing without a prior relationship has “opened up the floodgates” for rapid growth, she says.
Max Maile, Suko’s colleague and director of virtual health, says that Parkview intends to proceed with caution and intention: “We want to invest wisely in things that provide value to our patients while keeping costs down.”
7950 W. Jefferson Blvd.
Fort Wayne, Indiana 46804
President/CEO: Brian Bauer
Number of employees: 2,737
Years in Business: 113
Products and Services: Bariatric center, cancer center, Lutheran Children’s Hospital, adult and pediatric Level II trauma centers, adult and pediatric emergency departments, heart center, heart and kidney transplant programs, critical care transport including three Lutheran Air helicopters and Lutheran Ground and Lutheran EMS ambulances, diagnostic services, intensive care, lab services, medical imaging, music therapy, neurospine and pain surgery center, outpatient rehabilitation, surgical procedures, stroke center, nutrition therapy, sleep disorders center, weight management center.
Parkview Regional Medical Center
11109 Parkview Plaza Drive
Fort Wayne, Indiana 46845
President/CEO: Mike Packnett
Number of employees: 10,713
Years in Business: Our history dates back nearly
140 years to the creation of Fort Wayne City Hospital in October 1878.
Products and Services: The Parkview Health system includes nine hospitals and a network of primary care and specialty physicians. The flagship Parkview Regional Medical Center campus includes services such as the Parkview Heart Institute, Samaritan flight and ground transport program, orthopedic hospital, a certified stroke center, verified adult and pediatric trauma centers, women’s & children’s hospital, outpatient services center and comprehensive cancer center. Construction is underway for a patient-centered and physician-led cancer institute, also on the Parkview Regional Medical Center campus, which will open in 2018.