Northwestern Medicine

"Syringe and Vaccine" by Flickr User NIAID / (CC X 2.0)

While the world waits for a COVID-19 vaccine, doctors are encouraging residents to catch up on their other immunizations. 

Lisa Gonzalez is Public Health Administrator for the DeKalb County Health Department. She said with the current pandemic, it’s just as important to protect yourself against other respiratory diseases, such as influenza.

“We believe that it’s likely that the flu virus and the virus that causes COVID-19 will both be spreading at the same time.”

Pixabay user Gerd Altmann

Misinformation about COVID-19 has spread almost as much as the disease itself – and sometimes, faster. Why is this the case? 

When it emerged earlier this year, the world had limited knowledge of the coronavirus and its full effects. Doctors and researchers worked to better understand the disease, but countless rumors also circulated. Peter Adams with the News Literacy Project explained.

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Weight gain is becoming an increasingly prominent issue as people spend more time indoors due to the pandemic. 

It goes by many names. The "Quarantine 15." "Pandemic pounds." Time in isolation and fewer opportunities for exercise have expanded area waistlines. Audra Wilson is a clinical dietician at Delnor Hospital in Geneva. She said some of this can be attributed to eating more.

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In-person mental health services are being scaled back due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some groups are making a transition to telemedicine to compensate.  

When it comes to therapy and psychiatric care, telemedicine isn’t new. It involves a videoconference or phone call between patient and caregiver.  It has proven useful in rural areas, where it may not be feasible for the patient to make regular trips to the doctor in a faraway city or town. 

Northwestern Medicine is implementing new rules at its hospitals and clinics in response to the spread of COVID-19. 

DeKalb County Health Department

As the coronavirus spreads, local health departments and hospitals are monitoring the situation and making plans. 

To keep abreast of the situation, municipalities are in constant contact with their counterparts across the state. Lisa Gonzalez, Public Health Administrator for the DeKalb County Health Department, explains. 

“We have the Region 1 Health Departments which are the 9 counties in northwest Illinois, but we also work with Chicago region health departments and statewide health departments as well," she said. 

Chase Cavanaugh

Northwestern Medicine is celebrating the first anniversary of a program meant to be a bridge from a hospital stay to home.

NM started the Homeward Healing Swing Bed program at Valley West Hospital in Sandwich early in 2019. It allows patients who have finished receiving care for their immediate conditions to get additional rehabilitation treatment. This can range from physical therapy and wound care to IV and antibiotic treatment.

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Modern medical care involves a lot of record keeping. How it’s organized and shared has grown more complicated. 

Paper charts were once the norm for keeping track of patients. But in 2019, health providers keep electronic health records, or EHRs.  “As more practices got the EHRs going," said Lisa Bergeron, "they needed more help learning how to use it, how to pull out the data, how to understand the data, and then start using it in more integrating ways." 

Spencer Tritt

Kishwaukee Hospital in DeKalb was the site of a full-scale hazmat drill Thursday.

Local firefighters and paramedics worked with hospital staff on how to treat victims of a chemical accident. This includes suiting up in protective gear, de-contaminating patients, and transporting them to the hospital.  DeKalb firefighter Patrick Eriksen says emergency workers need to be prepared for everything.

Chase Cavanaugh

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed a law Monday that expands insurance coverage of mammograms.

Previously, insurance companies only had to cover the initial “screening” mammograms that check for cancerous tissue. Under the new law, insurance must now cover any follow-up mammograms that scrutinize the body in more detail.  Pritzker says this extra coverage is essential.

Chase Cavanaugh

Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital has just acquired a precision surgical robot.

Known as a da Vinci, it consists of multiple arms equipped with different instruments for surgery, such as scissors and forceps. Dr. Ricardo Soares was trained on the system, and said using it takes more time than a conventional surgery. But he said the robot can allow for a procedure that doesn’t require as much time for recovery.

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Six new casinos are planned for Illinois. Lawmakers expect hefty tax revenue, but the casinos also raise the risk of problem gambling. 

Anderson Mikos Architects

Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital in DeKalb could have a new breast health center by the fall.

Officials with Northwestern Medicine say the center is meant to increase breast cancer screening rates in DeKalb County. That rate is 65%, compared to a statewide average of 78%. The center will be a buildout of 6,000 square feet on the hospital office building's first floor.

Northern Illinois University

Northern Illinois University will put its student health services under Northwestern Medicine's management next year.

The change has been in discussion since earlier this year. NIU was in the midst of program prioritization, a process that evaluated individual departments and suggested ways they could operate more efficiently. NIU Executive Vice President of Student Affairs, Michael Stang, says student health was no exception.

Northwestern Medicine operates the two major hospitals in DeKalb County, but the majority of its resources for stroke care are based at Central DuPage Hospital.  That’s why Kishwaukee and Valley West Hospitals are making use of a telestroke system so doctors can videoconference with area patients.   Stroke coordinator Caryn Josh says it’s one of the first steps in patient care.

“They get that initial CT. They get back to the emergency department room and then we initiate the telestroke robot," she said. "We’re kind of involved from the very beginning with the treatment.”

Chase Cavanaugh/WNIJ

For some people, it's easy to schedule a doctor's appointment and get immediate treatment. But for those who don't live close to a hospital or clinic, this can be more difficult. "Telemedicine" is making this process easier.  

Mark Pfeiffer is a Hampshire resident and small business owner who was having difficulty sleeping. He contacted his local physician, who had Pfeiffer take part in a clinical study.

"After that sleep study, they confirmed, yeah, you have sleep apnea, and so they referred me to Dr. Jain at Delnor Hospital," he said.

The biggest health system in the DeKalb area is joining Northwestern Medicine in Chicago. That’s if a plan wins approval by state regulators.

KishHealth System and Northwestern Memorial Health Care announced they’ve agreed to join together. Their boards issued a joint statement about the proposed merger Wednesday. This means Northwestern Medicine would expand to include a total of six hospitals and 90 locations in northern Illinois.