Innovative Treatments and Technologies

In 2013, we implemented many innovative ways to better meet the health care needs of our patients and communities, among the most diverse in the nation. We collaborated with community partners to provide complementary services and began using forward-looking technologies that can help speed diagnosis and treatment of disease and improve patients’ quality of life. In addition, our research centers engaged in more than 700 studies to help us more rapidly translate our findings into innovative treatments to benefit our patients.

Research looks at Latina breast cancer

In September 2013, our Sutter-affiliated Palo Alto Medical Foundation began research to better understand why Hispanic women are twice as likely to die from breast cancer as non-Hispanic white women. The 18-month project, Cancer de Mama, looks at women’s experiences with breast cancer and how they make their decisions about treatment. A California Breast Cancer Research Program grant made the study possible. Researchers will seek additional funding to develop ways to improve and personalize breast cancer services for low-income Latinas diagnosed with breast cancer in Santa Cruz County.

Breast cancer patient Camilla Gonzalez, right, gets a spontaneous hug from Carla Gomez, an outreach coordinator for Sutter-affiliated Palo Alto Medical Foundation.

$2 million grant boosts research on heart failure

A $2 million National Institutes of Health grant awarded in 2013 supports ongoing research aimed at transforming how doctors care for patients with heart failure, among the most challenging conditions to detect and treat successfully. The grant allows Sutter Health, Geisinger Health System and IBM Research, research partners since 2009, to develop a deeper understanding of how to use electronic health record (EHR) data and advanced analytics to detect heart failure sooner. Researchers hope to identify the most effective ways that health systems nationwide might use analytics and EHR patient data to improve primary care. The study also holds promise for the use of data in diagnosing and treating other chronic conditions.

Community partnership serves South Asians

A partnership forged in March 2013 between Sutter-affiliated Palo Alto Medical Foundation and El Camino Hospital in Santa Clara County strengthened our commitment to the Bay Area’s growing population of immigrants from India, Pakistan and other South Asian countries. Recognizing South Asians’ high risk for coronary artery disease, our foundation’s thriving Prevention and Awareness for South Asians program and the community hospital’s South Asian Heart Center teamed up to provide complementary services. We collaborate closely, providing culturally sensitive medical care, health screening and lifestyle education.

“South Asians are four times more likely than others to develop coronary artery disease.”

Latha Palaniappan, M.D., M.S.
Palo Alto Medical Foundation

Small pump makes heart-care history

Sutter Memorial Hospital, part of Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento, began offering a new option to cardiac patients that can improve their quality of life while they await a heart transplant. In August 2013, the hospital performed the first surgery in the Sacramento region to give a patient an innovative mechanical heart pump—smaller than typical heart pumps and more easily implanted through a smaller incision. The palm-size pump and less invasive surgery can allow patients to recover faster, return home sooner and resume activities they enjoy. The medical center operates the Sacramento region’s only heart-transplant center and has the only cardiac program in Northern California, outside of San Francisco, offering the new technology.

Patient Ron Walters, left, and John Chin, M.D., of Sutter Health explain to reporters how Walters’ health improved after doctors implanted a small mechanical heart pump, above, in his chest. Walters and his wife traveled from Southern California to Sacramento to receive the innovative device.

Home care embraces technology

In 2013, Sutter Care at Home equipped more than 1,000 of our home health caregivers with secure mobile tablets, allowing them to instantly access and update patients’ electronic health records from the field. Caregivers can easily view patients’ health histories and referral documents and even use the device’s built-in camera to take photos of injuries and send them quickly to medical specialists for evaluation. Caregivers use the tablets as their sole computing device, traveling more than 6 million miles each year across Northern California as they care for more than 35,000 home health and hospice patients. Sutter’s innovative use of technology to enhance patient care won national recognition with the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives’ 2013 Innovator of the Year award.

“Tablets enable our staff to work more closely with patients.”

Philip Chuang, Chief Strategy Officer
Sutter Care at Home

Registered nurse Victoria Conneely, right, shows a Sutter Care at Home patient how to use a telemonitoring unit, which measures a patient’s vital signs and instantly transmits the information to a central database monitored by a nurse. The unit works in tandem with caregivers’ tablets, far right.

New laboratory studies human movement

In 2013, Sutter-affiliated Samuel Merritt University in Oakland opened a Motion Analysis Research Center, where faculty and students in podiatry, occupational therapy and physical therapy can study the effects of human movement on health. Equipped with three-dimensional cameras and other advanced technologies, the center evaluates muscle function, gait, balance and range of motion to help determine effective treatments for people with movement disorders. The center was funded entirely by $600,000 in philanthropic support.

Podiatry students learn about gait analysis in the Motion Analysis Research Center.