Skype for Surgery: Videoconferencing System Bridges the Best Minds in Medicine

Visitors see some of the video system in action during a tour of the robotic surgery suite

Visitors see some of the video system in action during a tour of the robotic surgery suite

The University of Chicago Medicine’s new state-of-the-art hospital is built for collaboration thanks to its design, size and proximity to world-class research facilities.  Telemedicine will push this collaborative environment beyond the walls of the Center for Care and Discovery. While the technology isn’t new—after all, we all use Skype and FaceTime—the seamless communication among physicians, researchers, medical students and patient families will be unprecedented.

The large hybrid operating rooms in the 1.2 million-square-foot new hospital allow teams of surgeons, nurses and other medical specialists from multiple disciplines to work side by side. The building’s location near the Gordon Center for Integrative Science and the Knapp Center for Biomedical Discovery puts physicians in close contact with researchers in the biological and basic sciences who translate fundamental scientific discoveries into better care for patients.

A modern videoconferencing system helps to bridge the best minds and practices in medicine to the outside world.

The new hospital features telecommunications technology that can broadcast images and live video of procedures securely online, allowing physicians to communicate with technicians elsewhere on campus, train medical students in remote classrooms and consult with specialists at other institutions anywhere in the world.

Arieh Shalhav, MD, professor of surgery and director of minimally invasive urology, will be one of the physicians taking advantage of these new capabilities. He’s an expert at performing prostate cancer surgery with the Da Vinci Surgical system, a robotic device used to perform minimally invasive surgeries. In a video produced for a tour of the new robotic surgery suite, he said, “Once we move into the Center for Care and Discovery, we’ll be able to very easily incorporate everybody in the room into the actual, real-time, what’s happening in the room, and show very, very precise, minute details of things we’re doing.”

OR video screensThe heart of the system is software and networking components from Image Stream Medical, a vendor that specializes in network-based imaging and collaboration systems for hospitals. The system can integrate with the hospital’s existing IT infrastructure and imaging systems, such as those used by radiologists and pathologists. It can use a variety of inputs, from conventional cameras mounted in surgical lights and flat panel displays on the walls to those built-in to any standard video assisted surgical equipment.

D. Kyle Hogarth, MD, assistant professor of medicine and director of bronchoscopy and minimally invasive diagnostics, uses one such instrument called a bronchoscope. It’s a device inserted through a patient’s mouth into the lungs to look for cancerous growths in areas that previously required invasive measures to reach.

In an interview for another video, Hogarth said, “We actually now have the ability, literally, to have a live microscope on the end of our scope. You’ll see microscopic images as if you had your microscope on the bench, looking under it, except it’s live, it’s real, it’s right there.”

These images can be transmitted anywhere in the world via a secure website, which will allow experts at other facilities watch procedures in real-time and provide assistance and feedback. The system can also record and broadcast video to the conference center and patient consultation rooms in the Center for Care and Discovery, so physicians can review procedures with colleagues, medical students and patient families.

Shalhav said that the new level of connectivity not only improves collaboration with fellow surgeons and students, but also improves patient care. “The teaching is better, the clinical service is better, and development of new procedures, new ideas and new concepts is much more readily available than it was before,” he said.

About Matt Wood (531 Articles)
Matt Wood is a senior science writer and manager of communications at the University of Chicago Medicine & Biological Sciences Division.
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