Hospital’s OR fitted with new ‘flight deck’ |

Hospital’s OR fitted with new ‘flight deck’

Eben Harrell

One of the reasons for the success of current home makeover reality television shows is the contagious excitement of watching a family discover their home has been completely renovated and improved.That same excitement can be felt pulsing through Aspen Valley Hospital’s surgery department these days as the hospital nears completion of a state-of-the-art renovation of its three operating rooms.”It’s hard to relay the excitement around here,” director of perioperative services John Rockafellow said. “From surgeons to nurses to patients, everyone will be impacted.”The hospital has spent approximately $2 million dollars on renovations, half of which has gone to the physical expansion of the operating area. A small operating room – OR3 – has been expanded to full size. Several storage closets for disposable operating equipment have been built. And a new staff lounge has been added.But what has everyone talking is the new technology that’s been installed. Last May, AVH hired a Massachussets-based information technology company, Smith and Nephew, to install cutting-edge equipment in the operating rooms.Each operating room has been transformed to something that looks akin to the flight deck on Star Trek. A central, touch-screen control panel activates various cameras and plasma-screen televisions throughout the room. Old, awkward trolleys have been removed for equipment suspended from the ceiling.The technology is all interfaced through a digital data storage system. Whereas X-rays once had to be delivered by hand from the emergency room to the operating theater, now a surgeon can call up pictures in the operating rooms with the touch of a button. Soon, the operating rooms will be linked with doctors offices in Aspen, such as The Orthopedic Associates of Aspen, so that surgeons can consult their in-town colleagues midsurgery. The technology will also be used for teaching; students can watch a surgery from elsewhere in the hospital, or even in Aspen, without crowding the operating theater.”It’s not changing the techniques we use during surgery,” orthopedic surgeon Dr. Mark Purnell said. “It’s just making them easier and better.”Hospital spokeswoman Ginny Dyche said the new information technology will also bolster hospital revenues by increasing efficiency in the operating rooms. By cutting down on the time it takes to transfer medical data and records, the hospital can perform more surgeries with less waste, bringing more income and greater patient care, according to Dyche.The improvements are part of recommendations made in 2002 by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO), an independent, not-for-profit organization that evaluates and accredits healthcare organizations across America. The commission’s 2002 audit stated that the hospital’s operating area must be improved by May 2005.The hospital is planning a public open house to show off the new operating area once renovations are completed in early November.Eben Harrell’s e-mail address is


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