New technology at Golisano Children's Hospital in Fort Myers is now making it possible for families whose infants have specialized genetic needs to get access to out-of-town specialists - without leaving Southwest Florida.
Lee Memorial Health System has developed its own "telemedicine" devices to communicate with specialists at Nicklaus Children's Hospital in Miami, using a secure face-time connection.
Jonathan Witenko, Project Manager for Lee Memorial Health System, had just finished helping his team implement the new technology when his daughter tried to show him that she could do a back flip at home, but slipped and hit her head.
"I couldn't catch her," Witenko said. "She ended up hitting the floor, and I just had a sickening feeling that something was wrong."
When he got her to the hospital, doctors were concerned enough to suggest flying them immediately to see a specialist in Miami. But then they realized they could put the telemedicine device to use.
"They can do the consult right from their office," Witenko said.
For now, Golisano is mainly using the technology in their Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit, or NICU, for genetic and metabolic disease consultations.
"It will allow those experts to give us additional input, without physically being here," said Dr. William Liu, medical director of Golisano's NICU.
"It's hard to travel. People are working," said Parul Jayakar, medical director of Miami Genetic Laboratories. "We keep families together, and yet provide the best care for the babies."
Witenko, whose daughter is doing fine now, believes many people will appreciate face-time with a long-distance specialist, especially since they may already be accustomed to services like Skype.
"People are more familiar with it, and they're comfortable with it," he said. "It's the logical step to extend it to the health care arena."