When Janis Baustert arrived at Mercy Hospital, she entered a new era in health care. With a stroke threatening to cripple the 60-year-old, within minutes she and her husband were video conferencing with a neurologist 300 miles away while he studied her electronic medical records. “Everything’s going so fast I’m thinking, ‘Good grief, how did they get all this done?’” husband Stephen recalled.
The Mercy telestroke program that helped Janis Baustert is one example of the technology that has earned Mercy a national reputation as a cutting-edge health system. Now Mercy is reinforcing that reputation with a technology-packed facility in Joplin.
A silver lining to the tragic 2011 tornado that devastated the community, the new Mercy Hospital Joplin will open March 22 as a symbol of Joplin’s recovery, much as the ruins of St. John’s Regional Medical Center became an iconic image of its devastation. The modern facility will be a showcase for Mercy’s rapidly expanding use of technology to deliver caring and efficient health care to patients across its four-state area.
“Joplin has had to pick itself up from a horrific disaster,” said Gary Pulsipher, president of Mercy Hospital Joplin. “Now the community is rebuilding to emerge stronger – and we are proud to say – with a new hospital unlike any in the region.”
Mercy’s new facility will introduce features that were unavailable to its old Joplin building, including all private rooms, a wing dedicated to pediatrics and a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for the region’s tiniest patients. Planners included new windows and walls to protect against future storms, and arranged floor plans with operating rooms next to the emergency department and physicians’ offices near their hospitalized patients’ rooms.
At the center of Mercy’s digital advances is the extensive use of electronic health records across the system’s four-state network. They already proved their value in ensuring consistent care after the tornado destroyed the old St. John’s, which implemented the electronic records system just weeks before the storm. Instead of blowing away like paper records would have, the electronic records remained safely stored in a secure data center some 100 miles away and were immediately available after the tornado.
That same electronic health record system allowed a remote specialist to quickly diagnose Janis Baustert’s stroke in Kingfisher, Oklahoma. He decided on a course of treatment that enabled Baustert to recover with no major complications. Similarly, Christine Kaiser was diagnosed by a distant neurologist while she was a patient at Mercy’s hospital in Watonga, Oklahoma.
The telestroke physician reviewed Kaiser’s electronic records and determined she had suffered a transient ischemic attack, also known as a ministroke, and she was admitted for overnight treatment. Without the telestroke program, she might have been airlifted to a hospital hundreds of miles away, leaving her to worry about loved ones she helped care for.
“It would have been a nightmare and a hardship for us,” Kaiser said.
Mercy is a national leader in remote delivery of health care services and monitoring patients using high-speed data and video connections. It began as a response to the shortage of doctors and specialists available in many of the rural areas Mercy serves. These advances in telemedicine are now at the fingertips of Mercy’s doctors in Joplin.
“Our early experience has enabled us to expand our use of new technologies for the benefit of patients,” said Randy Moore, president of Mercy Virtual, which is pioneering a new model of care using the power and potential of telemedicine.
Patients themselves have access to a web-based program called MyMercy. It enables them to see their lab results, schedule a traditional doctor’s appointment, and even schedule an e-visit with their doctor for minor conditions.
“Whether inpatient, outpatient or even in-home monitoring, Mercy can now provide care from anyplace to anywhere,” Pulsipher said.
This summer, Mercy Virtual will open the world’s first freestanding virtual care center near St. Louis. Called a “hospital without patients,” it will serve as a hub for Mercy physicians, nurses and technicians across Mercy’s four states working around the clock to help diagnose, treat and monitor patients anywhere.
While Mercy in Joplin has participated in several of the telemedicine programs, the new hospital will include:
Mercy SafeWatch – Mercy’s tele-ICU monitors about 500 beds in 15 hospitals across five states. More than 40 board-certified critical care physicians and 60 critical care nurses help monitor remote patients, reducing length of stay, mortality, ventilator-associated pneumonia and central blood line infections.
Telesepsis – Mercy developed innovative technology to help monitor patients at risk for bacterial infections that can lead to life-threatening, whole-body inflammation called sepsis. Telesepsis helped reduce by half the number of deaths from severe infections at Mercy Hospital St. Louis and shortened the average stay in intensive care by more than two days.
Telestroke – Patients rushed to an emergency room anywhere in a network of nearly 30 hospitals can get rapid, specialized care from neurologists. Time is crucial as the clot-busting drug proves most effective the sooner it is given.
eAcute – The newest of Mercy’s telemedicine services, eAcute extends the sort of monitoring that is typical for intensive care beds to general medical and surgical floors. Registered nurses are able to sit at a single workstation to monitor data generated by faraway patients. Ten Joplin beds are already being wired with eAcute sensors and video links that will help reduce patient complications, discomfort and associated costs.
Mercy Hospital Joplin will also see the latest equipment installed throughout the facility, including:
Precise cancer treatments – The most advanced linear accelerator in the region will apply customized, high-energy radiation to shrink and kill cancerous tumors. The result is effective treatment of a broad range of cancers in short sessions. Treatments that might take 10 minutes elsewhere can be completed in a few minutes. “Patients will get better results while spending less time on the table,” said Whit Sanders, radiation oncology director at Mercy Hospital Joplin.
Quicker lab results – A highly automated lab will help speed the processing of tests that physicians order as part of patient care. Systems that move specimen bottles along a conveyor belt to an automated diagnostic process will also benefit from added verification tests, meaning faster and more accurate results. The new lab can serve patients inside and outside Mercy who want faster, more accurate test results, said Eric Eoloff, president of Mercy Labs. “Mercy Joplin will become a hub lab for the entire region. It’s another way the hospital will be a resource for Joplin and surrounding areas.”
Whether it’s the convenience of MyMercy or the life-saving potential of advanced cancer treatments and virtual care, the new Mercy Hospital Joplin is wired like never before. That technological power will combine with the skill and compassion of Mercy co-workers to offer unprecedented health care to the region when the doors open to patients on March 22, 2015.
Mercy is the fifth largest Catholic health care system in the U.S. which servers millions annually. Mercy includes 35 acute care hospitals, four heart hospitals, two children’s hospitals, three rehab hospitals and two orthopedic hospitals, nearly 700 clinic and outpatient facilities, 40,000 co-workers and more than 2,000 Mercy Clinic physicians in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. Mercy also has outreach ministries in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.