AI, machine learning and robotics: New technology transforming patient care in the local healthcare landscape


By Nikki Ciecierski

Two new CT scanners are high-speed and provide quicker imaging and better resolution while decreasing the radiation dose, which is particularly important for younger patients.

Prioritizing innovation

“The institution continually reinvests in technology and our people to meet the region's evolving needs. The growing demand for services, including imaging, dialysis, diagnostics, emergency medicine, orthopedics and oncology treatments, necessitates strategic investments in technology,” said Kurt Kissinger, Chief Strategy and System Development Officer at Mount Nittany Health.

He further explained that Mount Nittany adopts a team approach to foster a culture of innovation. "We promote a multidisciplinary, team-oriented approach to evaluating new diagnostic technologies and treatment practices, including input from physicians, front-line providers, and staff," he noted.

Technology decisions at Mount Nittany Health are made collaboratively, involving teams from each specific area. “Recent renovations like the Mount Nittany Medical Center laboratory exemplify this approach,” Kissinger said. “The newly renovated lab, staffed around the clock, processes approximately 2,000 test tubes daily and conducts 2.5 million tests annually.”

“Lab team members worked together to plan the space, select the equipment and stage the move. The result is a more efficient, effective workspace with state-of-the-art technology at the centerpiece of the new lab,” Kissinger continued. “It features state-of-the-art technology, including the Beckman Coulter DxA 5000 Total Lab Automation System, enhancing efficiency and sample processing speed.”

“We were very thoughtful about creating an efficient space,” said Kristin Klinefelter, Manager, Laboratory Services, Mount Nittany Health. “The new lab features an open floor plan with uninterrupted sight lines and natural light. We eliminated overhead cabinetry, which gives the lab a large, open feel while occupying the same square footage as the old lab.”

The Diagnostic Pavilion, the region's largest imaging center, underwent significant technology upgrades. “Staff involvement ensured the successful implementation, featuring a new 3 Tesla MRI, high-speed CT scanners and improved diagnostic accuracy across various imaging studies,” Kissinger said. “Collaborative efforts in projects like the Patient Tower involve hundreds of staff members contributing to the design and functionality of spaces.”

Additionally, Mount Nittany Health leverages AI and machine learning for early cancer detection and treatment. “The deployment of Azra AI technology, an AI-powered clinical platform, automates reports and identifies patients who may need immediate care,” Kissinger added.

Collaborations vary by specialty. “Recent Lab, Dialysis and Imaging renovations show partnerships with leading equipment and technology resources,” Kissinger shared. “Collaborations with Stantec, known for healthcare facility design, contribute to projects like the new Outpatient Center at Toftrees and the Patient Tower.”

Impact on patient experiences

"The use of cutting-edge technology enables people to get the very best care close to home," Gregory Ruff, MD, Mount Nittany Health Pulmonary Medicine said. “The addition of robotic-assisted electromagnetic navigational bronchoscopy enables us to evaluate and diagnose patients with pulmonary nodules earlier, more effectively and with a lower complication rate than conventional strategies or previous technology. We are now able to safely biopsy lesions measuring 10 to 15 mm under direct visualization.”

Ruff provided insights into the decision-making process behind adopting technologies like the Galaxy Robot System. “The integration of real-time imaging with robotic electromagnetic navigational guidance distinguishes this system,” he said. “Strong multidisciplinary support from medical oncology, radiation oncology and referral thoracic surgeons was pivotal. Mount Nittany Health acted swiftly, recognizing the necessity of providing state-of-the-art care. We are the seventh center in the country to perform cases with this system.”

Robotic bronchoscopy has been present for several years, but the Noah Galaxy system offers integration of real-time imaging in conjunction with robotic electromagnetic navigational guidance.

"With the Galaxy system, we now can confidently approach pulmonary nodules measuring 8 to 20 mm," Ruff explained. “This capability has eliminated the need for riskier procedures like CT-guided biopsies, resulting in improved patient outcomes and overall satisfaction.”

"We have currently performed seven procedures using the Noah Galaxy robotic system," Ruff continued. “The higher diagnostic yield has allowed for early referrals, and patients have been pleased with the experience and results, with no complications encountered.”

More information: Two videos showcase Mount Nittany’s legacy of change and recent projects,

In other healthcare news, Happy Valley-area residents will soon have more choice for care as Penn Highlands State College location is on track for summer 2024. Check out the December 2023 construction update here: Penn Highlands State College | Penn Highlands Healthcare (


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