AGH Introduces Telemedicine, Helping Children W/ Autism


BERLIN, Md. - For parents of children suffering from developmental disorders, like autism and ADHD, help is closer than ever.

Atlantic General Hospital has rolled out a new program that links local children and their families with specialists that are over a hundred miles away.

For Connie West, taking her four-year-old autistic son Skylar to see a specialist, is about a three day excursion.

"We usually leave the day before the appointment," says West.

The energetic boy was diagnosed with high functioning autism and ADHD last September.  The West's live in Wicomico County, but their doctors are in Baltimore.

"There's many many families on the Eastern Shore that will opt out of the specialized service at Kennedy Kreiger because of the travel," says Deborah Wolf, director of the Atlantic Health Center where the new telemedicine services are provided.

Now, Atlantic General is rolling out a telemedicine program, partnering with the Kennedy Kreiger Institution in Baltimore.

The goal is to make it easier for families here on the shore get that specialized care, and diagnoses.

Through a video conferencing system, doctors can watch the way a child does certain tasks with the toys in the room.

Wolf says "they can come here for a two hour appointment and then their done and they can go back to their day."
Connie West describes it, saying "it's like they're here with us."

Still, hospital officials recognize technology has its limitations.

"When a provider has something on screen that maybe the child's not paying attention to, our nurses can do the same exact thing here to model it for the child, so the child can repeat what they're doing," says Wolf.

Skylar was the first to use the program back in December.  His mother Connie says better access, to better care, will lead to a brighter future.  Her hope, "to have him be as individual and lead a normal lifestyle as much as he possibly can and with all the services...he'll get that."

The telemedicine program is still in the pilot stages.

Atlantic General recently announced a new $190,000 grant from CareFirst, which will help pay for upgrades to the video conferencing system.

For anyone already on the waiting list at Kennedy Krieger, officials from Atlantic Health Center say they can schedule a telemedicine appointment at the hospital.

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