A pioneering network which brings expert advice to the bedside of babies and children hundreds of miles away through a video link has been launched.
Parents will be able to discuss treatment with a specialist
The Intern2 telemedicine system links paediatric centres in Glasgow, Dundee, Ayrshire and Lanarkshire and will be expanded to other parts of Scotland.
The network of mobile cameras and monitors is used to examine X-rays and view newborn babies' heart ultrasounds.
Parents can also use the video link to discuss treatment with a specialist.
It is hoped that the initiative will cut delays and reduce unnecessary patient transfers.
The four hospitals already linked to the system are
Yorkhill in Glasgow, Wishaw General in Lanarkshire, Ayrshire Central in Irvine and Ninewells in Dundee.
Plans to expand the network to other paediatric and neonatal units are already under way.
Dr Alan Houston, a paediatric cardiac consultant at Yorkhill, said: "The technology involved in this project is tremendous, allowing us to interact with patients and colleagues in outlying district general hospitals in a way that has not been possible before.
"The network offers clinicians a high standard of detail that is comparable to actually being on-site with the patient.
"It is a truly 21st century way of allowing paediatricians to work together and make the best possible decisions for some of Scotland's most ill children."
Dr Sam Ibhanesebhor, consultant neonatologist at Wishaw General, said it was a "fantastic development".
"It will give parents the best of both worlds by allowing their baby to be treated in a local setting close to home, while still having instant access to the relevant specialists and experts if needed.
"In the past if we wanted a second opinion on a patient's condition the only option would be to bring the relevant expert to Lanarkshire or transfer the child to a different hospital.
"This not only leads to delays in diagnosis, but can be stressful for the baby involved and the family who are visiting them.
"Although we have the medical expertise to care for most cases at Wishaw General, telemedicine will allow us to strengthen our service by providing instant access to colleagues specialising in the management of complex or unusual cases, who were previously only available by travelling into Glasgow."
Ayrshire Central Hospital is taking part in the scheme
Specialist heart scanning equipment was bought two years ago for use in the neonatal unit at Ayrshire Central Hospital following a public campaign.
"This new technology allows that scanner to be used to its full potential and promises further great benefits to the babies we care for and their families," said Jon Staines, a neonatal consultant.
Dr Rosalie Wilkie, of the paediatric department at Ninewells, added: "To have the opportunity to share information in such an immediate and interactive way is of tremendous benefit to our patients who can access the best level of care from experts across Scotland."
The scheme has received £500,000 of funding from the Scottish Executive.
Early results of the system have suggested that the initiative could prevent a significant number of patients having unnecessary transfers.