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The use of telemedicine proves to be an invaluable tool

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Within hours of his birth, little Chase Houston was facing the biggest challenge of his life. “They said he kind of went floppy, nonresponsive,” says his mother, Genny Houston. An X-ray revealed Chase had a spontaneous pneumothorax, or a hole in his lung, which can be a life-or-death situation.

Dr. Richard Birch of Garfield Memorial Hospital says their small-town hospital isn’t equipped to handle these unique situations. “A few years ago we wouldn’t have hesitated to put a chest tube in this infant and called Life Flight, have a plane or helicopter come to our facility and take this neonate to a larger facility to take care of the problem.”

This medical concern brought up the perfect opportunity to utilize telemedicine. For the first time, Garfield Memorial Hospital was able to connect with a neonatologist in St. George via two-way video system. Birch says the technology allows them to have access to specialists with a touch of a button.

Genny Houston says she couldn’t have been more at ease. “It was nice knowing that the baby was in good hands and everything was taken care of. They had a video camera and they sat there and watched him breathe for a couple hours and the doctor was right there and he was answering all of the questions.”

On the other end of the video stream was the neonatologist, Dr. Erick Ridout of Dixie Regional Medical Center, who says keeping mom and baby together has tremendous benefits. “We were able to make the decision that the right thing to do was to watch the baby there, not immediately transport and allow the baby to sort of choose the path they wanted to be on, and that baby chose the path to stay with mom.”

The medical staffs at Garfield Memorial Hospital and Dixie Regional Medical Center and the Houston family were able to work seamlessly together to make the decisions necessary to provide the best medical care for little Chase. In the end not only did mom and baby remain together, but the use of the telemedicine program was able to save time and money.

Ridout says the “dramatic cost savings with not needing to fly a helicopter and the risks that go along with those things, but not doing interventions on the baby and leaving the baby there and having the baby be able to bond … that’s priceless.”

In the end, Chase was able to recover quickly with very little treatment. He now has a healthy set of lungs, perfect to keep up with his older brother and three sisters.

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