| In the medical clinic at Stuller, medical
assistant Krystal Eades confers with Dr. Joseph
Orgeron from his office via the telemedicine
By Lisa Hanchey
Imagine being able to see a doctor for a minor illness without having to leave work, fight traffic and wait for hours at a clinic. That’s exactly what’s happening now at Stuller Inc., which launched Lafayette’s first telemedicine clinic on May 7.
About 18 months ago, Stuller founder Matt Stuller and Lafayette General Medical Center President and CEO David Callecod were discussing how much valuable time employees missed by going to doctors’ appointments. Their solution was to implement a telemedicine program where Stuller’s 1,200 employees could access primary care from work for routine conditions such as colds, allergies and minor injuries. “Both parties agreed that it was good for the community and good for the Stuller employees and achieved both organizations’ mission and vision,” says Brian Kirk, LGMC’s vice president of physician practices.
Using the technology expertise of community nonprofit FiberCorps, Stuller set up two-way audio and HD video conferencing where employees could be “examined” by a physician without having to leave work. “We were able to get everyone around the same table for the extended dialogue that it took to be able to get in place all of the legal agreements, the protocols for how the telemedicine project was going to work from the patient and provider’s perspective and the technology setup to be able to make the connection actually happen,” explains FiberCorps CEO Geoff Daily.
The provider selected for the pilot telemedicine project was Dr. Joseph Orgeron, a family practitioner who had recently launched his own clinic through LGMC in Cordoba Square off Ambassador Caffery Parkway. “I became a really good candidate to potentially be available when somebody would be needed,” he explains. “So, while my clinic is still being ramped up, I am the doctor on the other side of the screen.”
Eventually, LGMC will use doctors from its other urgent care clinics — the Family Health Plaza in River Ranch and the Family Health Plaza South in Sugar Mill Pond. “We are going to have satellite telemedicine hookups available for our physicians in those clinics to be able to help us,” Kirk says.
Orgeron describes the process as “kind of like Skype.” Basically, telemedicine involves a video conference over the Internet. When the patient arrives, certified medical assistant Krystal Eades checks in the patient, gets the chief complaint, takes vital signs and scans the paperwork into a file. At the other end, Orgeron pulls the file up on his computer, reviews it, then dials the clinic to start a one-on-one video dialogue with the patient. Eades uses an otoscope to take pictures of the patient’s ear, nose or throat and a Bluetooth stethoscope for listening to the heart and lungs. “Whatever she is listening to on her end with her stethoscope, I can actually hear through my stethoscope in real time,” Orgeron says.
Telemedicine does have its limitations. For example, Orgeron cannot perform knee, abdominal or other exams that require actual touching. “There are certain things we are not going to be able to do through this,” he confirms. “But for a lot of the coughing, colds, sore throats, and ear infections ... it’s something that we are very excited about.”
During the first week, about seven Stuller employees visited the telemedicine clinic for minor ailments, including upper respiratory problems and skin rashes. Currently, the clinic is open on weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For illnesses that cannot be treated at the clinic, Eades refers patients to the emergency room, urgent care centers or Orgeron’s office.
So far, the telemedicine program is working well. “Actually, it’s going better than I expected,” Orgeron says.
Recently, Stuller held a company meeting where it showed staff how easy it was to use the telemedicine program. Instead of spending time going through multiple layers of security, getting stuck in traffic and waiting for hours at doctors’ offices, employees can just walk down the hall from their work station. The whole process takes just minutes instead of hours, saving both time and money. “It used to be if you were going to see a doctor, it was going to be a minimum of two hours, between going through security to waiting at the doctor’s office, etc.,” Daily says. “Now, as a result of this solution, we are able to have people see the doctor and get in and out in a 20- or 30-minute process versus a two-hour process.”
“So far, the project has been going very smoothly,” confirms Jennifer East, Stuller’s executive director of human resources. “The feedback has been extremely positive.”
Orgeron believes that telemedicine is the wave of the future. “I think that telemedicine is probably going to be used much more in the future, because you are going to have shortages of providers, especially in rural areas,” he says. “Another one of the things that has been talked about is using it on offshore rigs, where it is a lot harder for the patient to get seen easily.”
LGMC’s Callecod also sees the value of telemedicine to address impending physician shortages. “We want to position ourselves uniquely in terms of addressing what we know is going to be a shortage of primary care physicians, particularly post-health care reform when many more people are going to have Medicaid or some other form of insurance,” he says. “We are going to be able to have a lot of innovative approaches that are going to allow our practitioners to see additional patients and see patients in a variety of locations without necessarily having to have two, three or four different offices. I think there is tremendous application for this as we move into the future and, in particular, as it relates to the impending physician shortages.”
The Lafayette Parish School Board's mishandling of its insurance selection process over the last two years has caught the attention of the FBI.
Kids under 18 will have to pursue skin cancer the old-fashioned way.
The illustrious Ragin' Cajun alumni will receive the university's prestigious SPARK Award as part of the 10-day arts celebration.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
Lafayette Parish School Board member Kermit Bouillion says he will defend his District 5 seat in the upcoming election.
The Louisiana chapter of Americans for Prosperity sent the pledge request to all 144 lawmakers in February.
The 5-foot-10, 203-pound former second-round pick has gone to three Pro Bowls in his five seasons.
The state argues that if they identify how they're getting the drugs, they could have trouble buying more because companies don't want to be known as helping in an execution.
The enrollment period ends this month.
Newsy tidbits for the fam
Irish style is smiling
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Wednesday, March 12, 2014:
Abshire has rejoined the Lafayette Bar Association, where she previously served as marketing coordinator under longtime Executive Director Susan Holliday
Home-grown Baton Rouge market/deli heads to Lafayette.
Deadline for submitting noms for annual competition is March 15
Whitney Bank officials have confirmed that the downtown branch will cease to exist when it relocates its regional headquarters to River Ranch at the end of May.
So far the Democratic agenda includes proposals to expand Medicaid; increase the minimum wage; offer equal pay to women; heighten regulations on predatory lending practices, like payday loans; and add more transparency in the governor’s office.
Hot-button education issues ranging from Common Core to charter schools have some lawmakers pushing to scrap the appointing process and go back to electing the state's super.
Downtown Lafayette restaurant launches new concept near Le Triomphe
Police say the handcuffed man fatally shot himself in the back, but his family isn't buying the story.
Yeah, it's smoked venison sausage stuffed in a suckling pig stuffed in a lamb and roasted over an open fire.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
Gov. Bobby Jindal offered a budget proposal that suggests new education and health care spending, pay raises for state workers and an incentive fund to encourage colleges to enhance their science, engineering and technology training.
Reamco founders Brent Milam and Ashley Lane now shareholders in acquiring company and part of its management team.
Low heels, high style
The board hopes to recover all fees paid, plus one-half, along with what could amount to hundreds of thousands in additional penalties.
Oh, the irony... or something like that.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
Hopefully he’ll be better prepared today than he was in that Feb. 20 deposition.
They came by the hundreds, arriving from all regions of the state to gather on the steps of our Capitol in protest of the Legislature’s long tradition of giving industry the go-ahead to abuse our air, our water and our coastline, all in the name of good economics.