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Effingham Magazine

The da Vinci System : Robotic Surgery in Effingham County

The da Vinci surgery system has brought minimally invasive surgery to more than 3 million patients worldwide and has been successfully in place at the Effingham Health System since August 2018. The program is already exceeding expectations and will be growing to meet the community’s needs.

Effingham Health System is committed to bringing every resource available in “the big city” to their patients and the da Vinci X robotic system allows physicians to offer the most advanced surgery option for the community, keeping Effingham Health System on the forefront of healthcare technology and most importantly, helps transform the surgery experience for patients in Effingham. “This cutting-edge surgical technology will help us draw more of the region’s top surgeons to Effingham Health System,” shares Fran Baker-Witt, CEO. “That means more specialized services close to home for local residents.” Effingham Health System is the only critical access hospital in Georgia to offer da Vinci robotic surgery. The surgical robot can be used in a wide range of specialty services, including general surgery and hernia repair. The addition of the da Vinci X Surgical System, allows physicians performing surgery at Effingham Health System to offer patients the option of robotic surgery for additional procedures, which may include urology, gynecology, gynecologic oncology and colorectal surgery.

What is da Vinci Surgery?

With the da Vinci Surgical System, surgeons operate through just a few small incisions. The da Vinci System features a magnified 3D high-definition vision system and tiny wristed instruments that bend and rotate far greater than the human hand. As a result, da Vinci enables the surgeon to operate with enhanced vision, precision and control. The da Vinci System represents the latest in surgical and robotics technologies. The surgeon is 100% in control of the da Vinci System at all times. The da Vinci technology translates the surgeon’s hand movements into smaller, precise movements of tiny instruments inside the patient’s body. ( We spoke with Gaynell Miller, MS, RN, Interim Chief Nursing Officer at Effingham Health System about the da Vinci robotic surgery system and how this impacts patients in the community. How long has the da Vinci robotic system been in place at Effingham Health System?

We rolled it out in August 2018, so it is relatively new, but highly successful. What lead to adding this option to Effingham Health System? First and foremost, Effingham Health system focuses on being here for the community. We are completely committed to best practices that improve quality of care and the patient’s experience. So, when one of the key surgeons recommended it, we saw that bringing this surgery option would benefit our patients greatly. Because we work collaboratively with our medical colleagues, we were able to introduce something new and cutting edge. How many patients have utilized it so far? We have had 79 cases between August and December 2018. Our goal was 55 so we exceeded it by 44%! We thought we would have a ‘soft opening’ and ease into it, but that didn’t happen because our staff was eager to embrace change and put the system to use. They are very invested in really serving our community and thought this was the way to go.

Why is that- what are the benefits to a patient?

One of the main benefits is a quicker recovery, which is the result of a far less invasive surgery. Instead of the huge incisions of the past, these are very tiny. And because the internal organs have far less exposure during surgery, there is much less chance of infection. Patients can get up and about much sooner so that means patients can get back to their daily activities much sooner. We already perform laparoscopy surgery which is not new in healthcare and is less invasive and is an improvement over traditional surgery, but the da Vinci system brings surgery to a whole new level because it allows the surgeon more flexibility. The robot allows more precision and the machine can make different hand maneuvers the human hand can’t do. Additionally, comfort and convenience are big factors in the benefits to our patients. They can experience state of the art medicine close to home, and their families and support systems are able to participate in their recovery so much more conveniently as we are right here in the community. What medical conditions is it used for? Primarily general surgery such as hernias and gall bladder cases. There is a lot of opportunity for use in urological surgery cases which we will be able to do in the very near future as we are adding a Urology group in the late spring of this year.

What is next? We are creating an operational team to evaluate the current success and explore how to take the robotic system to the next level. We will develop a plan around those findings; with the urology team being the first step in enhancing the program. Of course, there is special training for surgeons and our staff in the OR in order to use the da Vinci system, so it is not something that can be expanded without preparation. It is a process and we are willing to do whatever we need to maximize our program. Surgery is really growing at Effingham Health System and we have expectations that the volume of robotic surgery cases will continue to expand, and we will be prepared to meet those increased capacity needs. So, we are planning an expansion of our surgery center. Currently we have two fully integrated surgery suites for both in and out- patient surgery.

Is there a cost benefit?

There are tangible and intangible benefits and cost is included in that. One of the benefits is lower rate of post-opinfections, which potentially eliminates the cost of a hospital admission. Many of the costs are incurred up front, but other supply costs are reduced in the long run. We weighed the cost and benefits and the impact on the patient’s outcome played a huge part in the decision. as to how it impacts the patent and their recovery. Ultimately it is all about the patient having high quality care, being safe, and having a positive outcome because you can’t put a price on a positive recovery and experience. The feedback from patients has been entirely positive; they are amazed there is something so advanced in our community! They love the convenience of being ‘home,’ which is so important for family support as well. What makes Effingham Health System the right choice for patients?

There are many reasons to choose Effingham Health System, starting with the “family feel” to organization. The quality patients experience is of absolute importance to us as a healthcare organization. We want every single patient to have an outstanding day under our care. We strive for consistency, no good days or bad days- they are all outstanding days. We aim for our patients to receive the same level of excellent service always. They rely on and expect that. And we are growing our organization. Everything we do is about matching growth with patient care, quality, safety and excellent customer service for our community. I absolutely love it here. I have been the Interim Chief Nurse since July 2018 and I am really impressed with the warm community feel, the welcoming spirit and the commitment of the staff, the Governing Board and the Executive team. Our staff embraces the idea of wanting to provide the best healthcare possible for our community. I have been in healthcare for over forty years and have been pleasantly surprised about the number and quality of services provided here. The consistent message at Effingham Health System is to identify the needs of the community and adjust to meet them. Ask to have a tour- see for yourself! You may be very surprised by our growth. This is a great place to work, to visit, to practice, to receive care. It is like home.