IHC medical innovations on display
March 2, 2012
The future of Intermountain Healthcare medicine was on display this week in the nonprofit’s biannual conference, Mindshare. Attendees stopped at demonstrations featuring the organization’s most recent efforts in technology, from robots to wireless monitors and 3D printers.
"We’re trying to develop more services and greater access to healthcare," said the IHC VP of Outreach Services, Chris Coons.
"Basically, this conference is an exchange of ideas," he added. "We bring these very innovative people into town to show them what we’re working on.
A handful of the demonstrations from this week will soon be available to Utahns, Coons said.
The telehealth system, a webcam system where patients can connect to doctors from anywhere in the world, is expected to be operational this year. Along with the telehealth program, Intermountain Healthcare hopes to tackle an issue for Life Flight, the emergency response service that uses aircrafts. The new life flight service allows responding crews to chart a patient’s status while en route to the hospital and transfer that information to the hospital more easily.
"Right now, it is very difficult to chart while you’re flying," said Frederick Holston, the IHC Chief Technology Officer. "It may be easy to write, but it is difficult to use technology when you are flying."
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Farther out on the horizon, IHC plans to introduce technologies such as 3D printing, a patient conferencing robot, an updated clinical information system and large touch screens that can be used for x-ray and cat scan images.
"Imagine a doctor who is with a child," Coons said. "That child may have an unusual-shaped ear duct, so the doctor cannot easily see what’s going on. We can produce attachment based on the ear duct shape that is customized to child’s ear so the doctor to see inside."
In some select cases across the country, 3D printing has already been used in cases where patients needed specially formed hearing aids, prosthetic molds and even artificial tissue and organ engineering.
The patient conference robot would allow physicians to work on a patient without being in the room. Like the telehealth program expected to launch later this year, the robot would provide a video chat feature as well as being able to perform basic medical tasks.
"We take emerging technology and try to figure out if it fits with the goals of Intermountain Healthcare," Holston said. "If it is a commercial product, can this help us in healthcare? We always have to ask ourselves that question."