More than 30 pediatric cardiology and cardiovascular surgery experts across the globe will make presentations on the future of care for pediatric heart patients, including virtual examinations, during a four-day conference that Nicklaus Children’s Hospital will host Dec. 3-6 in Miami.

The conference is titled, “Evolution or Revolution? Disruptive Thinking, Technology and Innovation in Pediatric Heart Disease.”

“The objectives of the program are to review future directions of inpatient care, cardiac surgery, imaging, electrophysiology and cardiovascular care; understand the principles of disruptive thinking and technology as they apply to pediatric cardiovascular care, and discuss new trends in fetal intervention, digital innovations, basic cardiovascular research, and data analysis,” says Gil Wernovsky, M.D., medical director of patient-and family centered care and the Single Ventricle Program for the Heart Program.

The conference will open with a look back at the challenges in using innovation 40  to 50 years ago and comparing them to the challenges of today that include Big Data, apps and 3-D and 4-D technologies.

For example, Wernovsky says, today’s technology includes 3-D models of complex heart malformations from Cat Scans or MRIs to help pediatric heart specialists plan specific procedures of a heart of a specific size. Parents can hold the heart model while a physician explains the various parts of the organ and how the procedure will be done.

Nicklaus Children’s Hospital is also working with a vendor to develop live 4-D imaging technology so physicians can put on 3-D glasses and virtually hold an imaged heart, turn it around, and slice it in half to see the inside in real time, supplemented with a 3-D model of the heart. “The stuff going on in technology that is trickling into medical is fascinating,” Wernovsky says.

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Another emerging technology is virtual telemedicine, where an ultrasound on the heart could be done at another hospital or physician office and transmitted live to Wernovsky or another physician’s office so they can hear the heart on a stethoscope.

And that’s where the disruption comes in. Heart patients won’t have to return to the surgeon who did the surgery for follow-up; that will be done remotely by the patient’s primary care doctor in concert with the remote surgeon, Wernovsky says. “The notion that you don’t to go the surgeon for your follow-up but do it virtually is pretty disruptive.”

The conference on Saturday, Dec. 5, will include a free Patient and Family Education Day, designed for families of children with congenital heart disease. Discussions will focus on supporting a child’s emotional, social, school and medical success from infancy to adulthood to encourage more patient and family engagement. This education day has been held for a couple of years, but now it is being done in conjunction with the physician meeting and lunch will bring all the doctors and families together, Wernovsky says. He has been surprised at the excitement of attending physicians to have a joint lunch.

Cost of the conference for physicians is $650. The conference also will be available live online for a nominal cost. If the conference is well-received, Nicklaus Children’s Hospital will consider additional programs covering other disciplines. More information and registration is available here.

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