Newswise — Cold, allergies, the flu or something else? Thanks to advanced technology, physicians at Loyola University Health System receive confirmation of their patient’s respiratory illness within one hour. Loyola is one of only two hospitals in lllinois to use the FDA-approved FilmArray™ Respiratory Panel, which screens for 17 viral and 3 bacterial pathogens in about 60 minutes.
“Loyola continues to push the envelope in infectious disease care, and due to the recent increase in flu cases, all three respiratory panel instruments are operating around the clock,” says Paul Schreckenberger, PhD, director, clinical microbiology laboratory at Loyola University Health System. “This flu season is explosive and the quick, accurate results from the respiratory panel make a real difference to physicians and patients.” Under standard technology, it takes several days for the laboratory to obtain infectious disease test results. “The new system offered at Loyola consists of a single test panel for 20 infectious agents including both bacteria and viruses that can be performed from a single sample,” he said. “Traditional methods of testing require a physician to order a separate test for each suspected pathogen which can be very expensive and often requires days to complete.”
The new system integrates sample preparation, amplification, detection and analysis into one simple system that requires 2 minutes of a technologist’s time and has a run time of about 1 hour. “The improved diagnosis is efficient and accurate,” says Schreckenberger. Faster results can improve patient management, limit the spread of the disease and reduce overall health-care costs. “Laboratory testing with this new technology gives certainty to the physician’s diagnosis and allows tailored specific therapy and improved patient outcomes,” said Schreckenberger.
The panel system also enhances epidemiologic charting and tracking of pathogens, which are shared with clinicians and public health officials. In 2012, 2437 respiratory panels were performed at Loyola with 1187 patients (49%) testing positive for one or more respiratory pathogens. Rhinovirus, which causes the common cold was the number one pathogen detected accounting for 417 cases, followed by Influenza A virus (295 cases) and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (268 cases).
“Loyola is truly a leader in infectious disease care and an early adopter of proven technology, like the respiratory panel, that saves time, saves money and most importantly, improves the health of our patients,” said Jorge Parada, MD, MPH, Professor of Medicine and medical director of the Infection Prevention and Control program at Loyola. Also an early adopter of rapid and reliable diagnostic testing, Loyola chose to use similar DNA detection technology when they became one of the first hospitals to screen all inpatients for MRSA. Screening has enabled Loyola to prevent more than 200 cases of hospital-associated MRSA infections. Loyola is also a leader in the prevention of influenza. Loyola is in its fourth year of mandatory flu vaccine requirement for employees. “We don’t want our staff becoming sick from vaccine preventable illness, nor do we want our staff to pass along infections to our patients,” says Parada. “But when someone is sick, however, we want to know, and want to let the patient know what they have as soon as possible.” For two years, Loyola has offered physicians confirmation and diagnosis of respiratory disease in 60 minutes through useage of the respiratory panel system.
Due to the uptick in seasonal flu cases, Loyola’s immediate care centers are especially busy. “On the first day of 2013, the Ambulatory Care Center at Burr Ridge had seen 47 patients, compared with 87 visits in 2012 in the entire month of January,” said Keith Veselik, MD, internal medicine, Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Medical Director of Primary Care. asto help care for patients, and tools like the respiratory panel are incredibly valuable in the care of our patients.”
Because of their reputation as an early adopter of proven technology, Loyola is participating in clinical trials for other advanced systems and protocols, including new instrumentation for rapid identification of bacteria causing blood stream infections and foodborne illnesses.