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Tech helping diagnose despite distance

SHERIDAN — iPhones and iPads can be used for texting, talking, surfing the Internet — and reading an ultrasound from 425 miles away.

The Sheridan Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees approved a new hospital position Wednesday that will be filled by a team of cardiologists in Denver. Using wireless technology and the growing field of telemedicine, cardiologists 425 miles away will be able to watch an ultrasound of a baby’s heart in order to determine the best care for a baby born with heart problems at Sheridan Memorial Hospital.

“The idea is if a baby is born here who isn’t oxygenating well, there are a couple of things that can be causing it, and an echo-cardiogram, or ultrasound of their heart, is the best way, or one of the ways to do that,” Chief of Staff Dr. Sara Smith said.

“If we can have a pediatric cardiologist look at that study while it’s being done, it helps determine the best care for the baby. That might be staying here; it might be going to Denver. This allows us to make that determination without sending the baby someplace for the study to be done,” Smith added.

Pediatricians at the hospital currently work with a team of cardiologists in Denver who said they would be willing to interpret heart ultrasounds done in Sheridan in order to prevent unnecessary trips to Billings or Denver for babies and families.

“They’ll be able to see it real-time and give us an interpretation real-time,” Smith said. “They can do it on their iPad or their iPhone. I didn’t see it, but apparently he was looking on his iPhone and watching the images come through wirelessly. It’s pretty amazing.”

The hospital will eventually need to purchase a specialized neo-natal probe to do the ultrasounds, Radiology Manager Chris Bilyeu said.

Prior to that, however, the team of cardiologists in Denver will have to go through the credentialing process in order to be approved to fill the newly created position, Smith said. That can take several months, but the hospital hopes to be offering tele-echo-cardiography services to its babies born with heart problems soon.

“Once again, here we are right on the cutting edge of that technology,” Sheridan Memorial Hospital CEO Mike McCafferty said.

About

Hannah Wiest is the government and outdoors reporter for The Sheridan Press. She has lived in Colorado and Montana but loves her sunny home state of Wyoming best. She joined The Press staff in February 2013.

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