After Life-Saving Call, Minnesota Doctors Looking At FaceTime Differently

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — What started as a standard procedure ended with a life-saving phone call.

Bob Sandin went to his local hospital, Cuyuna Regional Medical Center in Crosby, to get a pacemaker this summer. But after the procedure, something didn’t look right.

“There was something there that was not normal,” Sandin said.

After his surgery, Sandin woke up with chest pains and low blood pressure.

The problem connected two hospitals in a way that has some doctors taking a second look at their cell phones.

Dr. Fawn Atchison believed Sandin had suffered what’s called a pericardial effusion.

“If not diagnosed or treated properly it could lead to a very poor outcome,” Atchison said.

A pericardial effusion is where an abnormal accumulation of fluid appears in the cavity surrounding the heart.

Atchison thought it would be best for a cardiologist to weigh in to help make the next decision on what to do. The closest was 20 miles away in Baxter, at the Minneapolis Heart Institute.

Dr. Peter Stokman took a look at Sandin’s heart on a FaceTime call and confirmed his condition.

“I was in between patients and took the phone out of my pocket and saw it was a FaceTime call,” Stokman said.

Within minutes, Sandin was airlifted to the Twin Cities for surgery.

“We know that [a pericardial effusion] is not uncommon with pacemakers in the best of hands, but we also know in a small subset of people it can be life-threatening,” Stokman said.

It wasn’t until Sandin spoke to his new doctor upon his transfer that the two hospitals realized it was the first time they used FaceTime to find better care for a patient.

“It’s such a commonly available technology that everyone knows how to use it,” Stokman said. “It probably has untapped potential.”

Sandin had another pacemaker implanted and is feeling much better now. He’s grateful his doctor up north made the right call.

The Minneapolis Heart Institute says Sandin’s case has them re-thinking future uses for FaceTime.

They believe it could be especially important in rural healthcare settings across the state.

More from Liz Collin

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