Norton Healthcare specialists have long treated individuals with a multitude of infectious diseases. The emergence of COVID-19 has shown the importance of having a dedicated and centralized team of specialists driving care during times of rapidly changing clinical information and understanding. Whether human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis, the Ebola virus, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), bacterial infections or COVID-19, the team of specialists at Norton Healthcare has worked to lead the way in prevention, rapid diagnosis and state-of-the-art treatment.

As a result, Norton Healthcare has established Norton Infectious Diseases Institute, which focuses existing expertise in one integrated multidisciplinary center. It allows Norton Healthcare the ability to support patients, families and health care providers in ways that would otherwise not be possible.

“What we have learned from COVID-19 will take us into the future of caring for patients with infectious diseases,” said Steven T. Hester, M.D., MBA, division president, provider operations, and system chief medical officer, Norton Healthcare. “With COVID-19, we were able to mobilize our efforts and bring multiple specialties together in ways we had not before.”

Throughout the pandemic, the team that makes up Norton Infectious Diseases Institute was able to initiate testing for employees, patients and the community. The team established a process for helping nursing homes, greatly affected by this pandemic, develop COVID-19 plans. In addition, through a strong clinical research arm, the latest treatments were made available to patients though the proficient establishment of multiple clinical trials.

“With these wonderful resources, we were able to offer innovative research therapies to our patients,” Dr. Hester said. “Currently, we have five active trials for COVID-19 patients and have nine more launching soon.”

Norton Infectious Diseases Institute offers a team approach to inpatient and outpatient care, including consultations with disease-specific specialists, clinical research initiatives, population health management and education. The team of board-certified infectious disease specialists, led by Paul S. Schulz, M.D., manages and treats a wide range of diseases.

Norton Healthcare has been a leader in the fight against hepatitis C, advocating for Kentucky to be the first in the nation to screen expectant mothers for the disease and working across the hospital system to have obstetricians as part of the conversation on the importance of this initiative. Population health plays a key role in monitoring women through their pregnancy and follow-up treatment, ensuring they have access to the care they need with the assistance of grants to cover the cost.

Telehealth consultations, which have been available to health care providers and patients throughout Kentucky and Southern Indiana, offer an additional tool to ensure patients receive necessary care without the need for travel. These consultations allow a patient in a smaller community hospital to be evaluated by an infectious diseases specialist who can develop a treatment plan, then work with the patient’s local clinical team to implement and oversee the specialty care during the course of the treatment.

Some conditions treated by Norton Infectious Diseases Institute specialists include:

  • Bone and joint infections
  • COVID-19
  • Clostridium difficile (C. diff)
  • Diabetic foot infections
  • Hepatitis B
  • Hepatitis C
  • HIV
  • Immune disorders
  • Mycobacterium
  • Osteomyelitis
  • Pneumonia
  • PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) and PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis)
  • Shingles
  • Syphilis and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

This is the fifth institute established as part of Norton Healthcare’s continuum of care. Norton Cancer Institute was the first to be established in 1994, soon followed by Norton Neuroscience Institute, Norton Orthopedic Institute and, most recently, Norton Heart & Vascular Institute.

“We were fortunate that we had all of the pieces in place when COVID-19 came to this community,” Dr. Hester said. “By formalizing this institute and our efforts, we know this takes us to the next level to be ready for whatever lies ahead in the world of infectious diseases.”