EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Focus

April 29, 2008

Focus: Hospitals invest in new technology to care for aging population

(Continued)

The hospital also continues working to recruit new physicians — it now has 1,500 employees, including 400 physicians on staff. Together, they treat about 200,000 patients a year, with about 11,400 being admitted to the hospital for at least one overnight stay.

That number is expected to continue rising, so Caritas Holy Family is investing not only in orthopedics but also in a digital mammography machine and a bone densitometer, which "allows you to assess the integrity of bones in women suffering from osteoporosis."

The hospital is also investing in oncology services, at least partly with an eye toward the aging population.

"Cancer more often than not afflicts older people," Hughes said, noting that the hospital is installing a state-of-the-art linear accelerator called Trilogy that is "minimally invasive and creates a more focused beam, which is less disruptive to surrounding tissue when irradiating a tumor."

Plans are also in the works for a new emergency room.

Hospital competition

Michael Collins, the CEO at Merrimack Valley Hospital in Haverhill, said competition and health insurance costs are also driving change in the local health care industry.

The hospital has spent $8 million in the last year and a half to buy high-end radiology equipment to keep up with other medical facilities in the Valley.

"We're completely digital," Collins said. "We don't do film anymore."

The digital revolution improves efficiency; doctors can look at images of CT-scans or chest X-rays from remote locations on their laptops.

The hospital also has a 64-slice CT-scan, which improves the quality of the images so physicians can more easily see bleeding on the brain or blockages in the arteries of the heart. But, he added, "everyone in the Valley has a 64-slice CT-scan."

"There's no distinct advantage in technology between the hospitals," he said. "There is some difference in service."

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