City-parish government employees can now visit a doctor without ever leaving the office.
Lafayette General Health and city-parish government launched a new telemedicine clinic this month, allowing local government’s roughly 2,200 employees to step into an exam room at city hall and connect with a doctor via the Internet.
The physician and patient can chat and see each other through real-time video while an on-site nurse wields a digital otoscope, stethoscope or other medical device to send the doctor high-definition images from the inner ear, nose or throat to aid in a diagnosis.
“Telemedicine is a huge new development in health care. It’s an important force in changing the delivery of health care in the United States,” said Lafayette General Health President and CEO David Callecod, who was at city hall Friday for a demonstration of the new technology.
LGH, which operates Lafayette General Medical Center and other facilities in the region, has two other telemedicine clinics.
The first launched in 2012 at Stuller, an international jewelry supplier and manufacturer in Lafayette with a workforce of more than 1,000.
A second one connects Ossun Elementary School with staff at the school-based health center at Carencro Middle School.
LGH plans on steadily expanding such offerings and envisions one day bringing telemedicine services into the home, said Al Patin, chief administrative officer of Lafayette General Medical Doctors, a physicians group within the LGH system.
The new telemedicine clinic at city hall has its roots in a presentation Lafayette City-Parish Chief Financial Officer Lorrie Toups saw on the Stuller clinic.
“That’s kind of when the light bulb went off in my head,” she said.
Toups said she sees the telemedicine clinic as an opportunity to trim costs for city-parish government’s self-funded health insurance program, in part by making it easier to diagnose employee health problems that could be costly if not detected early and in part by reducing the expense of visits to a brick-and-mortar doctor’s office.
“At the end of the day, our goal is to save money for our group insurance plan,” Toups said.
City-parish employees will be able to connect with the family medical practice of Dr. Fallon McManus or with doctors at LGH clinics in the River Ranch development in Lafayette and Sugar Mill Pond in Youngsville.
One hope is the telemedicine clinic could improve productivity by allowing for consultations that might otherwise require an employee taking off work, and sometimes a quick visit with a doctor via the Internet is all that’s needed, Patin said.
“A lot of time we can facilitate a visit and the employee doesn’t have to go home,” Patin said. “This is a way to hopefully keep them in the system.”
Follow Richard Burgess on Twitter, @rbb100.