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Telemedicine Allows Physicians to "See" NICU Patients

For Immediate Release:
Media Contact: Sarah Darcy
March 8, 2013
(781) 624-8970

South Weymouth, MA — March 8, 2013 — South Shore Hospital's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) now has specialized equipment, which allows Boston Children’s Hospital ophthalmologists to remotely screen premature infants for retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), a major cause of blindness. The screening is required for babies born at or before 30 weeks gestation or weighing 1500 grams or less. If ROP is caught early enough, it can be treated with laser therapy or medication.

Our NICU colleagues use Tele-ROP equipment to take digital video of infants’ retinas in a quick exam. Still images from the video are securely transmitted to ophthalmologists at Boston Children’s Hospital, who will identify and track the progress of infants with ROP. Any infant with ROP findings that need a specialist is transferred from South Shore Hospital to Boston Children’s NICU for further evaluation and treatment. After hospital discharge, all babies who qualified for ROP screening (whether or not ROP was found) see a Boston Children’s Hospital  ophthalmologist in person for an exam, either in Boston or at Boston Children’s Physicians Weymouth’s outpatient clinic.

Using telemedicine equipment saves time for both families and physicians. “Without this program, we would have to transfer the baby to Boston Children’s Hospital to be screened there,” said Gretchen Hamn, neonatal nurse practitioner.

A decade ago, ophthalmologist Deborah VanderVeen, MD, tested the digital retinal camera in Boston Children’s Hospital NICU on 43 infants and found it compared well with exams done by hand. “Now, the nurses can do the screening without our ROP specialists having to travel around the state. Patients can stay at the community hospital, and families can be closer to their new baby,” says David Hunter, MD, PhD, ophthalmologist-in-chief at Boston Children’s Hospital.

South Shore Hospital is a 378-bed, not-for-profit, tax-exempt, charitable provider of acute, emergency, outpatient, home health, and hospice care to the people of Southeastern Massachusetts. South Shore Hospital’s home care division includes South Shore Visiting Nurse Association, Hospice of the South Shore, and Home & Health Resources. The hospital’s 900-member medical staff represents all leading medical specialties. South Shore Hospital employs 3,800 people, supported by a team of 600 volunteers. South Shore Hospital is licensed to provide Level II Trauma care and Level III Maternal/Newborn care. South Shore Hospital has been ranked among the top three hospitals in Massachusetts, according to the 2012 U.S. News & World Report Best Hospitals report and named a Top Place to Work by The Boston Globe. Please call (781) 624-6673 or visit southshorehospital.org for a referral to a South Shore Hospital physician.



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