Early telemedical intervention gets the best out of the less fortuned child

Augusta 05 January 1998 The Telemedicine Centre of the Medical College of Georgia has set up an Early Intervention Programme called Satilla. The general idea is to gather health care specialists around children who are born tiny and prematurely, who are suffering from the Down's Syndrome or from cerebral palsy or who are exposed to high risk factors such as an alcoholic mother. The development of the child's condition is being followed at regular times by a telemedicine consult involving the whole team of specialists. The programme avoids the need for long distance travel to visit one care taker after another in a short time. In this way, the child doesn't get upset or restless since it can be examined in the familiar environment of the local health care department.

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The Telemedicine Centre of the Medical College of Georgia has set up an Early Intervention Programme called Satilla. The general idea is to gather health care specialists around children who are born tiny and prematurely, who are suffering from the Down's Syndrome or from cerebral palsy or who are exposed to high risk factors such as an alcoholic mother. The development of the child's condition is being followed at regular times by a telemedicine consult involving the whole team of specialists. The programme avoids the need for long distance travel to visit one care taker after another in a short time. In this way, the child doesn't get upset or restless since it can be examined in the familiar environment of the local health care department.

The early intervention team consists of a pediatric neurologist, an occupational therapist, a physical therapist, speech and hearing specialists, a nutrionist and a developmental pediatrician. These experts are locally supported by the service coordinator and nurse for the Satilla Early Intervention Programme who takes the responsibility over eight south Georgia counties. The scientific research with regard to the beneficial effect on the children has not yet been fully carried through but most physicians involved have a feeling that this kind of attentive, personal and appropriate therapy at an early stage in the child's life, leads up to less disability in their future existence.

Dr. Patricia Hartlage, pediatric neurologist at the Medical College of Georgia Children's Medical Centre states the positive outcomes of the telemedicine consults on the educational and social level. Children attended via the Early Intervention Programme need less special programmes in education and fewer orthopedic surgeries because of the early physical therapy they have received. Furthermore, their families suffer far less from crises and divorces since a large amount of stress caused by the special needs of the child, is being removed thanks to the supportive treatment of the telemedical team.

Before the actual telemedicine consults start, a video introduces the little patient's parents to the Early Intervention Programme after which they have to fill in an extensive questionnaire about their child. The expert team first reviews this document in order to form a correct and clear diagnosis about the child's present condition. Each specialist then offers direct support and advice to the parents on matters like diet, speech and physical training, neurological complications and so on.

The telemedical programme started out in March of last year and it is the aim of the Medical College of Georgia to make it available to all rural counties where there is a lack of services for children with disabilities. If you want to read some hopeful testimonies about the blessings of the Satilla Early Intervention Programme for all those 'children of a lesser god', please check in at the Telemedicine Centre site of the Medical College of Georgia.


Leslie Versweyveld

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