St. Mary’s upgrading high-tech capabilities

As technology advances, it’s inevitable that rooms that once stored paper files now house electronic equipment.

Such is the case at St. Mary’s Hospital, which continues to upgrade its technological capabilities in the wake of opening a $270 million, 12-story patient tower in 2010.

Officials at the Grand Junction hospital plan to open three cardiac catheterization labs by the end of 2012. Officials also plan to expand the interventional radiology lab suite to two rooms. Construction is expected to begin in a few months, eliminating a hard-copy file room in the process.

The project as an exciting one costing millions of dollars, said Brian Barry, director of planning and business development for St. Mary’s Hospital. Barry will help oversee the design and reconstruction of the lab space. Equipment within the labs will be replaced as well. The current equipment is about eight years old.

“Machines get tired and they have maintenance concerns,” Barry said. “This is an optimal time to replace equipment.”

While the machines themselves might be old by today’s technological standards, the hospital routinely upgrades computer software within the machines, Barry said. Such software upgrades has helped boost the technological prowess of St. Mary’s. When working in cath labs, physicians now view results on high-definition monitors. Patient information is uploaded to a picture archiving and communications system.

“We don’t pull up an X-ray slide anymore,” Barry said. Cameras take hundreds of digital pictures doctors view on the monitors, making hard-copy X-rays nearly obsolete.

When St. Mary’s purchases hardware, it seeks companies that can provide service technicians in Western Colorado, Barry said. Such technicians are usually within a two-hour drive of Grand Junction.

St. Mary’s uses eight of the 12 floors in the new patient tower, which features a helicopter pad on the roof. When St. Mary’s planned the tower, it anticipated the facility would not be full for several years.

The hospital didn’t anticipate a decline in numbers of patients, which it experienced shortly after the tower opened in January 2010. In the interim, patient demand has remained at near that lower level. Hospital officials anticipate long-term population growth in Mesa County and continued demand for services across the region.