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Smart Screens---high tech “touch” computer information in Operating Rooms

July 01 2011

Those awesome “smart screens” that national TV weather people or CNN political reporters use to make one of several pictures/images large while using just their fingertips to reduce another and push it to the bottom of the huge screen---are serving a higher purpose as valuable tools in hospital operating rooms!

The smartest of today’s “smart screens” has arrived at a Lincoln hospital and you may benefit from the incredibly sharp images and multiple types of information your surgeon can access. He or she can view several images at the same time; look closer at any one image; or switch easily between image views. The new operating room viewing screens used today at Saint Elizabeth Regional Medical Center are so smart---they rival Einstein.

Until now “high tech” operating rooms in the US offered flat screen monitors—not high definition screens; they could only show ONE image or video or patient test results, at a time; and they allow access to a limited number of images and test results. In fact, Nancy Gondringer, director of surgical services, explains that oftentimes during a surgery a nurse had to leave the sterile environment or the entire OR to find a hard copy of a test or cat scan for the surgeon to use as a reference.

Now---unprecedented, multiple, crisp, sharply detailed, digital images can be viewed side-by-side, each enlarged or made smaller as needed by the surgeon, during the actual procedure. They will be on the screen right alongside the real-time video or images of the actual procedure taking place.

At their fingertips

These days physicians have available a lot of valuable information and images about their patients on-hand and they need an abundance of it available when they perform even routine procedures. At Saint Elizabeth, with their smart monitors, it is now possible to have that information literally at their fingertips.

This “smart monitor” system is web-based so it is more universal and can pull up images and information from various software programs even by different manufacturers. Additional equipment will allow physicians to call up images from places outside the medical center including from their office where the patient’s electronic medical record is stored or even from another healthcare provider’s office. This system can “grow” with us as we add new programs and capabilities right away and well into the future.

This is also a money-saving feature, Gondringer explains. In the past if Saint Elizabeth purchased one manufacturer’s equipment we would have to continue buying equipment from them to be sure it was all compatible or worked well together. The universal system removes that problem completely.

Brain Surgery

OR-smart-Pierson-1-smlDr Eric Pierson, neurosurgeon, explains that he and his surgical team need to see a variety of information on the screen during surgery. “We typically need 2-4 images from before the surgery, information from the patient’s electronic medical record, the patient’s current vital signs, and we need to see the video of the current procedure through the microscope or endoscope so the team knows what to anticipate next.”

Dr Pierson gives another example of something he can’t wait to have available in the OR: being able to view in the OR the thin slice from the brain taken from the patient being operated upon which was sent to the pathology lab. This will be a fantastic time-saver when compared with previously having to leave the OR; go down an elevator; walk to the pathology lab; then go back up the elevator to the OR; scrub in again; and continue the surgery. And up-the-road he anticipates being able to communicate with the pathologist while they both look at the same image from their separate locations.

Better Decisions

OR-smart-Rapp-2-smlFor patient and their families, having this larger amount of valuable information so accessible and in wonderfully sharp definition helps their surgeon make the best medical decisions possible for their patient. While in the operating room the surgeon can just click-and-drag any information or image they need and use their finger tips to make it larger or smaller. They can see what they need to see, when they need to see it.

Dr Michael Rapp, chief of surgery at Saint Elizabeth, says this technology opens new possibilities that he’s excited to explore. For example, the possibilities include real-time communication between two physicians for live consultations or between a surgeon and lab tech on a test sample they just evaluated. Each physician will explore how this newer technology will work best for them. Surgeons will be doing just that for a number of months.

Computer technology in the OR

Dr Rapp embraces technology. His office was one of the first in the area to use electronic medical records. He did foresee and want to be a part of this level of technological advancement which brings the technology of the computer into the operating room.

Operating room schedulers and other staff recognize how this extraordinary equipment helps surgeons, but in some ways it also makes their jobs a bit easier. Gondringer explains that they can see into each OR in real-time from the scheduling desk so if a surgeon is running behind they can move an upcoming surgery into another OR without having to call into the OR and bother the surgical team. Operating room personnel can also view from outside the OR if the surgery is at the point where they are needed.

The smart screen monitors were placed in the operating rooms a few months ago and training for surgeons started immediately. 

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