Medical Technology That's All About the Patient

Medical Technology That's All About the Patient

Published in the Woman Today magazine, October/November 2015

Medical technology that’s all about the patient

Seemingly every day, new stories appear about breakthrough medical technology that will help physicians see better, operate better, or heal better. During his medical career, Dr. James Mohn has seen his share of powerful new technologies come into his field of cardiology. “As a cardiologist, I need to be able to see what’s happening in and around the heart in order to correctly diagnose the issue. The name of the game is clarity.”

But according to Dr. Mohn, who works at St. Luke’s Cardiology Associates, there’s another side of medical technology that doesn’t get as much attention—how the technology impacts how it feels to be a patient. “It’s easy to look at the headlines and see what it means for the physician. But you also have to understand what it means for the patient experience,” said Dr. Mohn. “To me, that’s the true test for new technology.”

A perfect example: St. Luke’s new GE Discovery™ NM 530 Nuclear Imaging System that allows cardiologists to see the workings of the heart in amazing detail. In the sound bite, the system is a powerful tool for physicians. But what does it feel like for the person on the other end of the lens—the patient?

The patient (experience) above all else

Nancy Gehrke was one of the first patients to experience the new nuclear imaging system at St. Luke’s. Nancy, who is diabetic, has stage 4 renal disease and is a candidate for a kidney transplant. In order to prepare for her surgery, doctors need to verify that she is healthy enough for the procedure. So, in the time before a new kidney becomes available, she has to get a periodic assessment of her heart health.

“Every year, I have to get an angiogram and a stress test,” said Nancy. “In the past, I would go in, get an IV, then have to lay perfectly still with my arms over my head for 17 minutes while they imaged my heart. Let me tell you—when you are told not to move your arms, the only thing you feel like you want to do is move your arms. That 17 minutes felt like forever.”

For this year’s annual assessment, Nancy had the procedure done using the new nuclear camera. “Night and day difference. Instead of 17 minutes, this time, I was done in 7. And the new camera allows you to sit in a more comfortable position, too,” said Nancy.

For Dr. Mohn, the focus on the patient experience has multiple benefits. “For patients like Nancy, who need periodic procedures, knowing that the experience is going to be a positive one makes them much more likely to engage with their care. It’s just human nature—if you know you’re going to experience discomfort, it’s a lot easier to put off a procedure and not get the care you need.”

Dr. Mohn added that the new imaging system, which is the first of its kind north of the Twin Cities, can be used for any patient whose care requires clear imaging of the heart and surrounding tissue.

More than a feeling

According to Dr. Mohn, the new camera, is not only faster, it provides state-of-the art images using one-third less radiation. “A nuclear camera works by monitoring a radioactive tracer that we introduce into the bloodstream. This camera has a new detector that is made of a composite material so it allows us to use less tracer to get a better image in less time. As a physician, it’s a win-win: I get the clarity that I need, and my patient has a better experience. That’s medicine at its best.”

Nancy agrees. “The whole process can be intimidating. But their staff makes you feel so comfortable, and the procedure itself is more comfortable. And when you're comfortable, it makes health care that much easier for me as a patient.”

BELOW: Dr. James Mohn, St. Luke's cardiologist, and Caroline Edland, St. Luke's CNMT lead nuclear medicine technologist, stand by the Discovery NM 530 nuclear imaging system

Categories: Cardiology

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