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Forget 'ER'; Aurora Webcast shows real thing

By Thomas Rozwadowski, Green Bay Press-Gazette

It won't star Patrick Dempsey, but that really isn't the point of Aurora BayCare Medical Center's first live Webcast of a spinal surgery Thursday.

While scriptwriters try their hardest to place viewers inside the typically closed-off operating room with TV shows like "Grey's Anatomy" and "ER," even those peeks lack the realism of an actual hospital setting.

That's where the Internet comes in.

"A lot of medical people are excited about it, and a lot of nonsurgical medical people who don't get inside the operating room are excited to see what we do," said Dr. Steven Weinshel, a neurosurgeon who will perform the anterior cervical fusion on a 57-year-old woman on "I think you're going to see more and more medical information on the Internet, whether it's from insurance companies or patients learning about doctors and hospital statistics. Filming this procedure is part of the natural progression."

By partnering with the surgical video Web site, multiple cameras, or a "de facto studio," will give the broadcast from the Green Bay hospital the look and feel of a typical TV program, said Ross Joel, executive vice president of sales and marketing for slp3D, Inc. out of Hartford, Conn., which operates the portal. The Webcast also includes a pretaped segment demonstrating the cervical fusion and features Internet audience participation through a live question-and-answer session with other Aurora BayCare neurosurgeons.

Anterior cervical fusion is performed on the upper spine to relieve pressure on one or more nerve roots, or on the spinal cord. The pressure can be caused by the rupture of an intervertebral disc or by bony overgrowth associated with arthritic changes.

"We're there just to witness the event. Nothing is done differently, which is something we stress emphatically," Joel said. "The patient is really the star of the show, the surgeon the co-star. We're along for the ride just to see what happens in the OR. The only major difference is that we have moderators serving as anchors, to almost do play-by-play, if you will. They answer questions and interact with the audience, but everything is done with the appropriate time in mind. Nothing interferes with the procedure."

To get Weinshel and his staff comfortable with the added presence, the crew, which usually includes three cameras, visited in March for the same procedure, said Kat Rondeau, regional director of product line development for Aurora. That way, there should be few surprises when the Thursday taping begins.

"It's about taking down the barriers and opening up the doors," Rondeau said. "A lot of people watch 'ER' and 'Grey's Anatomy,' and in my mind, this is another step in that same direction. To get the cameras in there and allow viewers to actually see a spinal cord, I mean, how many times do you get the opportunity to see that?"

More importantly, the Webcast aims to educate other surgeons while providing peace of mind to patients in similar situations, Joel said. With the "latest and greatest" technology at their fingertips, a click of the mouse could lead to more health care accessibility than ever thought.

"A lot of what we do are the more typical procedures at hospitals around the country," Joel said. "We're not going for the 'wow' factor. It's about being real and tangible, looking at real people with conditions that are common to treat. For us, it's about delivering content that can be used."

Click here to view Aurora BayCare's outpatient surgical treatment to relieve pressure on the spinal cord.

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