Technology Investments Proving Powerful for Physicians

February 08, 2016


One of the biggest challenges for healthcare professionals is diagnosing the problem.  It is not just treating the illness, but connecting pieces of the puzzle to determine what is making the patient sick and how to fix that. At Penn Highlands Elk, new technology is helping solve the puzzle and bring world-class care to residents of Elk, McKean and Cameron counties.

Sepsis is an example of an illness that can be more easily diagnosed with the new technology. A potentially life-threatening complication of an infection, sepsis is often difficult to diagnose because symptoms vary and don’t always occur at the same time. For doctors, diagnosing sepsis can be like putting together a jigsaw puzzle – the pieces are there but putting them together to see the complete clinical picture can be challenging. And the real danger of sepsis is that if not treated quickly enough, it can progress into septic shock, which can be fatal.

To support Penn Highland Elk’s community health objectives, including solving medical puzzles like sepsis, the hospital invested in technology that identifies, organizes and presents the puzzle pieces to help doctors more quickly see the entire picture. The key to conditions like sepsis is to identify and treat them early while their effect on the patient is still mild.

The Visual Smart Board technology used by Penn Highlands Elk scours all of the patient’s medical data, including real-time vital signs, such as body temperature, heart rate and breathing rate, and then the software automatically detects key findings and alerts clinical staff, showing the data graphically on computers used by care teams. 

“We wanted to take the fight to sepsis, and we knew technology would be our greatest ally in that fight. As a result, our hospital leaders decided to invest in systems that not only help with sepsis but with many other medical issues where getting information earlier and more organized helps our physicians make better decisions that greatly enhance patient care in our hospital,” said Derrick Goode, clinical informaticist at Penn Highlands Elk. “The technology we have now is really only limited by our imagination for how to turn the data in our hospital systems into data our doctors and nurses can use. These new tools are cutting-edge technology that sends information and alerts to the right people in real-time rather than a doctor or nurse having to sit down, sort through data and focus on that instead of being by the bedside with the patients. It allows our clinicians to be far more proactive with patient problems, and frankly, we now have tools even the largest hospitals in America aren’t using yet.”