Thursday, January 17, 2002

Grant enables Kapiolani
to expand health service

Star-Bulletin staff

Neighbor island and rural Oahu patients will receive expanded specialized services from Kapiolani Medical Center for Women & Children under a $1.25 million grant from the Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Foundation.

Presented to Kapiolani officials yesterday, the fund will be used for the Children's Specialty Telemedicine, Fetal Tele-Ultrasound, Tele-Genetic Counseling and Children's Tele-Cardiology programs.

The hospital began constructing a telemedicine network with a $400,000 Weinberg Foundation grant four years ago.

Dr. David Kurahara, medical director for the Children's Specialty Clinic, said the technology will help fill gaps in specialized care resulting from geographic or accessibility problems.

"With telemedicine we can link to various health-care facilities throughout the state and be able to 'see' and care for virtually any patient who needs to receive specialized services from Kapiolani."

For instance, he said tele-services would include follow-up care for premature babies leaving the hospital's neonatal intensive care program but still requiring regular assessment and treatment. Services also will be enhanced for monitoring of hundreds of children who suffer from rheumatoid diseases.

The award-winning fetal ultrasound program, among the first of its kind in the nation, was developed with the earlier grant. When planes were grounded after Sept. 11, real-time fetal ultrasound images were transmitted from seven outlying sites to the hospital's Fetal Diagnostic Center.

Images were instantly interpreted by specialists in what could be life-threatening situations for mothers or babies. With the new funding, more sites will be established throughout Hawaii, and one will be located on Guam.

Also expanded will be outreach services to neighbor island patients through seven traveling clinics operated by Kapiolani with Shriners Hospital. Pediatric specialists fly to the neighbor islands regularly.

Part of the new grant will be used to establish a tele-genetic counseling program integrated with fetal ultrasound, which can diagnose more than 6,000 prenatal health problems.

Videoconferencing equipment will allow expectant neighbor island couples to receive results of genetic tests, participate in creating family trees to identify inherited disorders and receive counseling without leaving home.

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