When you think about technology from a healthcare perspective, we sometimes get wrapped up looking at the many amazing advances taking place today. Sometimes I think back and marvel at how far we have come, and what those early days of technology did to get us here.

The scope of services provided at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center is driven by technology, while at the same time staying true to the Sisters’ mission. In our eyes, technology is necessary because it is a value proposition which helps us differentiate ourselves in the market. The Sisters have never shied away from being the first to try something—not just to set us apart, but because it was what was best for patients.

Nearly 30 years ago, OSF Saint Francis was the first in the state of Illinois to install a CT scanner. This was a $1.7 million investment, with no promise that we would ever receive reimbursement because, at the time, it had not been established that CT scans offered “clear clinical viability and success.” We moved forward anyway, to the benefit of our patients.

The same was true for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). We were third in the state to get an MRI machine, and first in the state and 13th in the U.S. to gain lithotripsy technology (a non-invasive procedure that breaks up kidney stones) more than 25 years ago. We were proud to blaze the trail for best patient care practices.

These are just a few examples of cutting-edge technology that has ultimately bent the cost curve to the benefit of our patients. In a time when we regularly talk about reigning in healthcare costs, our organization was doing that decades ago because of technology. Instead of a patient having exploratory surgery and spending extra days in the hospital recovering, non-invasive technology allowed skilled physicians to get the job done without cutting.

That continues today with advances in robotic-assisted surgery allowing us to offer a minimally-invasive approach to surgery in five specialties: general surgery, gynecologic oncology, cardiac, urology and pediatric urology. Patients spend fewer days in the hospital, recover more quickly and get back to their daily life. We had one of the first robots in the area and now have two—and our surgeons wish we had more!

Even CT technology keeps improving through computed tomography that has dramatically reduced the radiation exposure patients receive when getting a CT scan. Mobile CT scanners allow patients to have a CT performed in their rooms, and there are bedside ultrasound machines in use in the emergency department, which save time when it comes to diagnosing aneurysms.

The MRI department has implemented the Invivo DynaCAD and DynaTRIM systems, the first MRI prostate solution which enables radiologists to conduct targeted MRI examinations of suspicious areas, improving diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer. The implementation of this technology has allowed us to increase our collaboration with local urologists who specialize in prostate patient care. We have become a regional referral center, drawing patients from Chicago, Iowa and southern Illinois, which is also good for the local economy.

Collaboration in a variety of areas has been a positive, technology-based side effect. In 1994, we were the first in the state to have paramedics do pre-hospital EKGs on patients suffering a heart attack. Having an EKG done ahead of time helps care teams better prepare for when the patient comes through the doors of the ED. When it comes to the heart, time is tissue, and the more quickly doctors can open a clogged artery, the better the chances of a patient’s recovery. Our Heart 7-7-7 team has nationally recognized heart attack response times, and this collaboration established nearly 20 years ago continues to improve the process.

How important is technology in the world of healthcare? It’s imperative when it comes to providing the high level of care and services patients and their families expect. I could go on and on about how blessed we have been to have access to the best of what technology has to offer, but our Sisters would remind me that all of the technology in the world is only as good as the overall care given to patients. That is the healing touch that remains a constant goal. iBi