Issue 4 Stories
The Best Medicine

Healthcare Innovations for Dummies

One of the things I enjoy most about working in health care is being part of an industry in which fascinating innovations continually lead to better care. The rate of change can be staggering, but also inspiring—a reminder that people are constantly working to develop even better ways to improve patient outcomes and quality of life.

This isn’t like working in an ice cream parlor, where things pretty much stay the same year after year, and all you do is put ice cream on a cone or in a cup and hand it to the customer. Oh, sure, maybe the flavors have become more dramatic—we’ve gone from vanilla and chocolate when I was a kid to flavors like “Nuclear Fusion Wildberry Confusion” and “Antelope Cantaloupe On The Range”—but the technology is pretty much the same.

Not so in health care, where there are always new ways to provide a better patient experience. If you were to tour our hospital, for example, you would see state-of-the-art innovations like laser-guided cancer treatments and minimally invasive heart surgery, as well as true industry game-changers like sheets and pillowcases.

Yes, you read that correctly: sheets and pillowcases.

Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital and Sentara RMH Medical Center are now using linens and patient gowns that are infused with copper. I’m not saying we put a penny under every patient’s mattress—I’m saying the linens actually have fine strands of copper woven into them. Read the fascinating article about these linens and you’ll see how this technology is leading to a dramatic reduction in healthcare-associated infections.

Things have changed so much from when I was 18 and away from home for the first time at college. Back then, the only chance I had at infection control was actually washing my sheets, but that didn’t happen too often. After all, I was young and I was a guy, a combination that didn’t exactly lend itself to proper linen management.

The thought of copper-infused linens, which have a salmon hue, didn’t occur to me back then. My dorm room sheets were much more likely to have been infused with pizza or Oreo cookie crumbs, or maybe even an actual salmon (not as far-fetched as you might think), but metal? Not so much. Back then, the only things in my life that incorporated metal were my music and my wire-rimmed glasses.

The introduction of copper linens is also a good reminder that significant advances in healthcare delivery don’t always involve a piece of machinery the size of a Buick that requires nuclear fusion to operate. Enhanced patient care can be achieved in all areas of a hospital, and Sentara’s commitment to keeping patients safe stretches across the healthcare spectrum.

The simplicity of the new copper-infused linens has also been good for my ego. Most everything in our hospital is beyond my capability to operate or even understand on the most basic level. To be honest, we have a couple of pieces of equipment whose names I can’t even pronounce. Unfortunately, my innate skill set is extremely limited when it comes to complicated things—that’s why I’m in marketing. So it’s immensely gratifying to finally see some leading-edge medical technology that even I can get my head around, since

I can, in fact, make a bed.

I hope this trend to develop idiot-proof healthcare innovations continues, as it is definitely playing to my strengths.

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