Simple procedure helps breastfeeding journey

Breastfeeding is a natural thing. But it doesn’t always come naturally.

When Christina Dennis gave birth to her youngest, Jackson, he struggled to latch at the hospital. They continued to try at home … and continued to struggle.

“It was starting to get really painful for me,” said Christina.

A friend suggested she talk to Sarah Musselman, a lactation consultant at OSF HealthCare St. Joseph Medical Center.

Sarah walked Christina through some breastfeeding tips, but she also spied what could be a larger issue. She suggested Christina go see a pediatric dentist to check if Jackson had what is called a lip tie.

A lip tie is when the frenulum, a small piece of skin that attaches your gums to your upper lip, is too tight or causing restriction. A lip tie is often accompanied by a tongue tie, which is when the frenulum that attaches your tongue to the bottom of your mouth is negatively affecting breastfeeding.

“When a baby has a tongue or lip tie, they suck more like you suck through a straw,” said Sarah. “It can really impact the way a baby gets milk, and it can be extremely painful for a mom.”

In addition to affecting breastfeeding, a lip or tongue tie can potentially have an impact on several things, including speech or the baby’s ability to swallow solid foods. It can even cause tooth decay, said Sarah.

A quick procedure

Christina had heard of lip and tongue ties before, but was skeptical of the treatment – using a laser or scissors to “snip” the frenulum.

“It seemed kind of crazy to me – taking a laser to the inside of a baby’s mouth!” said Christina. But after listening to a pediatric dentist present at the Baby Expo in Bloomington, she was comforted.

“He said he performed it to his own daughter, which was reassuring,” she said.

Ultimately, Jackson was diagnosed with a lip tie and visited a pediatric dentist for revision.

“I was super scared, but at the same time, I knew there was no anesthetic, so it was a little less scary,” said Christina.

The procedure went quickly, with Christina back in the room and being encouraged to breastfeed Jackson within minutes.

“He cried for a few minutes and was fussy that day,” said Christina. “But it wasn’t really anything more than an infant with a cold.”

Thanks to the revision, as well as coaching from Sarah Musselman and the support of the Moms of Beautiful Babies group, Christina and Jackson just celebrated one year of breastfeeding.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

“I think I breastfed my daughter for about three weeks,” said Christina. “I didn’t feel the support was there. Now that I know a little more, I suspect she may have had a tie, too.”

Sarah said it’s common for people to struggle. She suggests reaching out to a lactation consultant for advice and guidance.

“When breastfeeding is not going smoothly, we look at a lot of possibilities. Do the baby and mom just need practice with positioning and latch? Or is the baby doing the best they can because of their anatomical variation?” said Sarah.

And be open to all the possibilities – even a thing like a lip tie and/or tongue tie.

Christina said having the lip tie revision was a great thing. “They will feel so much better in the long run.”

As for comforting your baby in the short term, Christina suggested “lots of snuggles.”

MATTER Partnership Leads to Health Care Solutions

In 2014, OSF HealthCare became a founding member of MATTER, a Chicago-based incubator for medical innovation, with the goal of putting us on the front lines of health care technology development. In just three short years of this relationship, our partnership has produced hundreds of introductions and dozens of relationships with startup companies focused on solving health care’s most complex problems.

Partnership leads to connection with SafeStart solution.Dr. Richard Vazquez of SafeStart Surgical was one of the first entrepreneurs the OSF Innovation Partnerships team met through our relationship with MATTER. Dr. Vazquez, a Chicago surgeon, developed an application called SafeStart, a surgical safety solution aiming to end “never events,” or preventable errors in care in the operating room.

The idea is to hard wire surgical safety into the entire surgery planning process.  Because of OSF Innovation’s connection to the overall OSF HealthCare strategy, specifically patient safety and improved outcomes, we were certainly interested in what SafeStart could do.

How SafeStart Works

SafeStart moves the surgical consent and the beginning of the patient safety process, from the pre-op area back to the surgery clinic where these important steps can be done safely. Patient safety data such as the procedure type, patient identifiers, surgical site, allergies and more are collected in the clinic and stored on SafeStart’s secure servers.

Additionally, the SafeStart patient portal enables patient involvement by allowing them to certify that all data is correct from the comfort of their own home. Here, patients are able to verify or reject the data in the system. This data is again verified in the pre-op area with the patient and in the operating room as part of the surgical safety checklist. All of this creates a system that enhances patient safety and can improve efficiency in the surgery process as well.

As part of the larger OSF Innovation effort, the Innovation Partnership team is connected to subject matter experts (SMEs) throughout our Ministry. A significant part of the Partnership’s vetting process involves getting detailed feedback on innovation solutions from the appropriate SMEs on proposed solutions, workflows and anticipated outcomes.

When Dr. Richard Pearl, Chief of Pediatric Surgery at OSF HealthCare Children’s Hospital of Illinois, reviewed the SafeStart solution, he was immediately interested. After many discussions about the best way to test SafeStart’s solution at OSF, a research project was born.

Soon, Dr. Pearl and his team, alongside Dr. Vazquez and Jim Anfield of SafeStart, had developed a protocol for a clinical trial which would include 100 pediatric general surgery patients at the Children’s Hospital. This Peoria Institutional Review Board (IRB) approved research study was launched in October of 2016 and completed in March of 2017. From here, SafeStart will be evaluated for a larger implementation.

Benefits of Partnership

The story of SafeStart and OSF Innovation is an excellent example of how an integrated health care system-based innovation program, through a partnership with an active business incubator like MATTER, can work with startup companies to improve care for patients.

OSF Innovation Partnership’s process of mentoring early startups, vetting those with viable products and finding the best path for integration into our health system opens a front door for external innovation to make its way into our system. We may find ways for companies to work on product development, clinical research, the development of pilots or evaluate them for larger implementations. All of this is done with our strategy in mind, our Mission as our focus and our patients at its core.

Human-Centered Design: Instilling a Sense of Humanity in Health Care Innovation

Emergency departments within Chicago’s hospitals face a major challenge. The city’s child minority populations are more likely to suffer from asthma than their white counterparts. For a number of reasons, their families overwhelmingly send their kids to the emergency room (ER) for asthma attacks. The IIT Institute of Design in Chicago is teaming up with 13 of the city’s institutions, including six major hospitals to solve this issue.

Human-centered design course at OSF InnovationPiggy-backing off research suggesting families are often sent home from the ER without understanding how to best manage their children’s chronic health condition, the design team sought to find inadequacies in the discharge process. Their work included interviewing caregivers of children with asthma, the entire ER care team and primary care physicians to identify problems and define solutions to satisfy all stakeholder needs.

The result was the creation of an educational tool that helps families understand the medication process, enables child engagement, promotes conversation between ER doctors and caregivers, offers online resources and can easily be shared with primary care physicians and others who need to know how to care for the child.

Stakeholders were part of the iterative process as the tool was developed to ensure it accommodates all of those who would use it. The IIT design team is expected to wrap up a study on whether the educational plan improves patient outcomes this year.

A number industries and organizations all over the world are integrating this human-centered approach to design to meet the needs of the people they serve. Hospitals are just beginning to embrace this way of solving health care issues. OSF HealthCare is among the few adopting this discipline of design. By bringing humans to the center, design is applied to not only delivering products for more convenience and joy of use but also encouraging the adoption of new behaviors and lifestyles of people.

Human-Centered Design in Health Care

Our everyday lives depend on health. While medical institutions today primarily focus on providing care in medical settings, we can safely state that the front door of health care is often not the front door of the hospital. It is in people’s lives that are impacted by family members, friends, and employers; experiences; social circumstances; and their ability to navigate complex health care information.

Human-centered design seeks to capture an overall look of the health care journey for patients and their families. Design can help hospital systems like OSF better understand those they serve and take actions to empower patients and their caregivers to overcome obstacles in their lives and achieve healthier days ahead.

Designers also pay equivalent attention to the other side of the system, those who serve patients on a daily basis (the Mission Partners). Since service providers experience the various elements of health care, the human-centered approach is applied to improve the culture of both clinical and nonclinical members of the system. 

Experience as a Competitive Force

Health care systems are no longer alone in keeping people healthy. Today we see retailers and franchised care centers entering the industry. To stay competitive, traditional health care providers (such as OSF) need to think of better ways to set themselves apart or come up with innovative practices to lead this field.

human-centered designers at OSF InnovationWith the rise of a consumer mindset in the younger generations, individuals nowadays are paying for not only an outcome but also the experience of care. Factors such as a sense of empathy and user-friendliness have become big differentiators in a patient’s satisfaction and loyalty.

Employing human-centered design is helping in this effort by identifying unique patient desires and what types of experiences they are seeking from the beginning to the end of the process.

Designers employ human-centric approaches as well as deep, personal and coherent understandings on all user groups and stakeholders. The strategies generated from design help organizations imagine what the future could be, as well as depict how to get there and why it is important to act now.

A Culture of Innovation

The outcome of design has grown beyond the artifact to interventions and cultural change. It has an impact on how we communicate within and outside an organization. In-house designers influence other roles in the health care system, enabling our Mission Partners with questions to ask while innovating for better patient experiences.

OSF has engaged our human-centered design group to contribute to a culture of innovation, encouraging both clinical and nonclinical employees to think and work differently. I encourage you to visit the OSF Innovation website and see for yourself the unique approaches we are taking to our population’s care today.

Air Force Veteran Finds Second Calling

Twenty-year Air Force veteran Bill Thornborrow translated his knowledge gained as a flight line mechanic into a career in cardiology.

“I figured if I can troubleshoot an electric pump and clean out a gas line or two on a machine, I can do the same thing with a heart,” Bill said. “That’s what got me into the Cath Lab. Then, when one of the doctors said someone needed to learn electrophysiology, I volunteered. After a lot of on-the-job training, here I am, 13 years later and enjoying the job to this day.”

Bill was in the Air Force from 1976 to 1996. After retirement, he started working in the field of cardiology for different medical organizations. After a merger, Bill joined OSF HealthCare and works in the Cardiac Catheter Lab at OSF HealthCare Saint Anthony Medical Center in Rockford, Illinois.

“I enjoy the challenge of finding where the arrhythmia is coming from in someone’s heart and being able to fix it for them,” Bill said.

Bill is thankful for the training he received in the Air Force. He attributes his preparation for long hours and respect for those above and below him to the training he received in the service. And he encourages veterans take advantage of their experience.

“Make full use of your training you get from your field, as well as your general military training. And if your skill set doesn’t translate to a civilian job, don’t be afraid to venture out,” Bill said. “I figured greasy hands or bloody hands – same difference. You should use your training but think outside the box and the scope of your field.”

As an affirmative action employer, OSF HealthCare invites all veterans to search for available positions.

Be prepared for health emergencies on your vacation

There is nothing more exciting than packing for your upcoming vacation. You can see it now – laying on the beach, hiking up a majestic mountain or sightseeing in a beautiful city. Most vacation packing lists usually have sunscreen, comfortable shoes, swimsuits or the like listed on them, but one essential thing that’s missing from most lists is your health history information that can be easily accessed.

Let’s face it – the last place you want to be on vacation is in the emergency room. But it’s best to always be prepared for the worst case scenario.

Here are some questions to ponder: Could you give yours or your child’s medical history if needed? What if you weren’t able to speak and needed medical attention? How prepared are you?

There are several ways you can be prepared for an emergency situation on your vacation. First, you should be able to give the important pieces of your medical history. For example, you should know if you have any medical conditions and what surgeries you have had. You should be able to list your medications, dosages and allergies.

“Having your comprehensive health history helps providers identify what is going on or what they need to be concerned about in an emergency,” said Kristi Ryan, Adult Congenital Heart Advanced Practice Nurse at OSF HealthCare Children’s Hospital of Illinois. “This may help prevent unnecessary testing or a prolonged wait for the correct treatment you need.”

Be prepared

There are many ways to keep your medical information readily available. Here are a few suggestions:

  • OSF MyChart – secure online access to your health history information and a list of your test results for OSF HealthCare patients. To sign up, visit or download the app through the App Store or Google Play.
  • Medical alert bracelet or necklace – provides a small amount of information quickly by listing any health condition or allergy you might have.
  • Tools on your smart phone – the iPhone comes with the Health app. The app allows you to put medical information about yourself and an emergency contact person into the app. Then, the information can be accessed by the button that says “emergency” on the password screen without having to type your password in.

Another essential packing list item? Your insurance card.

“Bringing your insurance card with you helps you get the best care as quickly as you can,” Kristi said. “The last thing you need to worry about is how you are going to pay out of pocket for an emergency situation. If you are traveling outside of the country – or sometimes even state – it’s a good idea to understand if your health insurance covers any medical care there.”

Know your limits

“Have fun and live life to the fullest, but know what your limitations are,” Kristi said. “Be sure to discuss with your primary care doctor or specialty doctors what activities you would like to do so that they can help you decide if they’re safe for your health. This also puts your mind at ease when you get to your destination.”