Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Jaimie-Lynn Keeler, lead technician at Big Horn County Memorial Hospital, points out a microslide used for testing by the Ortho Clinical Diagnostics Vitros 5600 Integrated System. Holding the slide is laboratory manager Will Peterman.Light flickers in a test tube as part of a microwell test demonstration by lead technician Jaimie-Lynn Keeler at Big Horn County Memorial Hospital.

BHC Hospital purchases new chemical analyzer for blood testing

Laboratory technicians at Big Horn County Memorial Hospital have a new, $200,000 machine to play with that they believe will save both time and money in local blood testing. It’s a chemistry analyzer whose name has 22 syllables: the Ortho Clinical Diagnostics Vitros 5600 Integrated System.
Analyzers often become out-of-date within five years, according to laboratory manager Will Peterman, and they start to fall apart. The hospital’s current machine is hitting that mark and was beginning to break down, he continued. 
Had they not replaced the old machine, he said, there would have been delays in the testing process for community members – including those seeking emergency treatment. 
“Instead of being able to provide a troponin test result in a half hour saying, definitively, whether this patient has had a massive heart attack, we wouldn’t be able to do that,” he said. “It would take at least a day to send that [sample] to a laboratory outside this community and get the test result back.
“What we have done is not only upgrade the technology, but [bring in] a brand new analyzer that will ensure we aren’t going to be down. So, in the critical moments when you or a family member comes in with a serious condition, we will be able to provide those results.”
Their Vitros machine was given to them through the hospital’s Board of Directors, who Peterman is “proud of” for being “forward-thinking enough to fully support” the laboratory.
Many rural hospitals in Montana, he said, have laboratories that are understaffed and their workers stressed. Though Big Horn Hospital’s lab staff are “busy,” he continued, they aren’t overwhelmed.
Their laboratory consists of five staff who together perform an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 tests per month for the hospital, Heritage Acres Nursing Home and Bighorn Valley Health Center.
“The laboratory is not only important to the hospital,” he said, “it’s important to the community as a whole.”
For the past five weeks, Peterman and lead technician Jaimie-Lynn Keeler have been working to validate roughly 60 tests and make sure their results correlate with those of the hospital’s old analyzer.
“We can’t just bring in a new analyzer and say it works; we have to prove it,” Keeler said. “[Ortho] has brought in a laboratory specialist who’s been out here, flying back-and-forth from Denver and showing us how to work it.”
The hospital’s maintenance and computer specialists also have been involved in the project, Keeler said. Many tests that used to be done fully by hand, Peterman added, are now automated through the Vitros machine.
“It can tell you everything from whether you’ve had a heart attack, to the function of your thyroid, to liver function to kidney function,” Peterman said. “It is incredibly valuable to the doctors and physicians who are taking care of a patient because the problem is…when you get sick, numerous health conditions can show the same symptoms.”
The Vitros machine operates using three types of testing: microslide, microtip and microwell. The name for each test, Peterman said, essentially indicates where it takes place – whether it be a plastic slide, tip or test tube respectively. He and Keeler demonstrated a microwell test, which showed a substance in a test tube flickering blue from the introduction of a chemical reagent.
At press time, the machine was shown to be accurate for hospital work, and it was moved on Monday from the hallway where Peterman and Keeler were conducting tests to the main laboratory. According to Peterman, Vitros analyzers “have been known to last from 10-20 years.”