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TeleNICU Allows Docs To Deliver Care From Miles Away

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TeleNICU at Children's Medical Center (credit: CBS 11 News)

TeleNICU at Children’s Medical Center (credit: CBS 11 News)

DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) - Babies born with critical medical needs, need the best care available. Sometimes that means traveling to a hospital far from home.

At Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, a new tool in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) enables doctors to examine babies 125 miles away, and confer with their physicians families.

Called the TeleNICU, the state-of-the-art technology is a bridge for physicians to collaborate on diagnoses and care for the most fragile babies with serious medical needs.

Neonatologist Dr. Rashmin Savani is director of Neonatal and Perinatal Medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center. He practices at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas.

“The babies we deal with are fragile. They don’t tolerate transfers (through ambulance or helicopter) very well. We want to avoid transfers, if possible. That’s going to result in a better outcome,” Dr. Savani said.

Trinity Mother Frances Hospitals and Clinics in Tyler is the first hospital system to link with Children’s Medical Center in Dallas via TeleNICU.

While Trinity Mother Frances operates a Level 3 NICU, Children’s Medical Center operates a Level 4 NICU – the highest level of neonatal intensive care for the most serious cases.

Since the launch in September, Dr. Savani and his colleagues have been able to collaborate on care for twelve babies via teleconferencing.

The doctors in Dallas can use a specialized camera to observe the baby; a specialized stethoscope to listen to the baby’s heart and lungs; and they can also examine medical records and imaging.

“So the only ones that really need to come here [to Children’s Medical Center in Dallas], come here. We can have a wider reach of the kinds of care that we provide, without having to transfer the babies. So in the end, it’s going to result in a better outcome. It’s infinitely better for the family,” said Dr. Savani.

Three of the UT Southwestern Medical Center neonatologists in Dallas have TeleNICUs in each of their homes, so they can answer questions at any time, from doctors like Nancy Pusser, in the NICU at Trinity Mother Frances.

“It’s been extremely helpful, like having another physician over your shoulder. If you need someone in a pinch to say, ‘Take a look with me. You can listen [to the baby]. Observe the baby, and give me some insight,” said Dr. Nancy Pusser, a neonatologist at Trinity Mother Frances.

The collaboration between Children’s Medical Center, UT Southwestern Medical Center and Trinity Mother Frances in Tyler is just the first step.

Doctors would like to connect with more hospitals in the future, and use the TeleNICU as a teaching tool.

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