LAFAYETTE — Since May, a telemedicine clinic housed inside an international jewelry manufacturing and supply facility has allowed employees to receive treatment of minor ailments without leaving the building.
Jennifer East, executive director of human resources at Stuller Inc., said the clinic developed through the company’s partnership with Lafayette General Medical Center and FiberCorps, a nonprofit created to capitalize on Lafayette’s fiber optics infrastructure.
Stuller employees must go through security checkpoints — similar to airport security clearance — when they enter and exit the building, East said.
“We are a secure environment and this allows people to get care they need without leaving our facility,” East said. “Our goal was to provide convenience and ease of use.”
The clinic is staffed by Pam Prejean, a registered nurse who facilitates patients’ telemedicine visits with Dr. Joseph Orgeron, who “sees” patients from his office about two miles away.
“He can see what I see and hear what I hear in real-time,” including checking patients’ lungs and ears via a Bluetooth-enabled stethoscope and otoscope respectively, handled by Prejean, she said.
When one patient came to have a skin irritation checked, Prejean said, she was able to use a video camera for Orgeron to more closely inspect the infected skin.
Orgeron said he is impressed with what he has seen so far.
“The video conferencing system is very, very good,” Orgeron said. “There’s almost no delay. It really feels like you’re sitting there having a conversation.”
Orgeron said there have been instances when he has advised patients who visited the telemedicine clinic to visit a doctor’s office.
“There are limitations to what we can see at the clinic,” Orgeron said. “There are certain things like abdominal pain or something that seems simple like knee pain that should be part of a physical exam. I don’t think technology will ever replace a doctor being in a room with a patient.”
The clinic provides employees improved access to care, he said.
“In the past, it was about a four-hour window that they were out of their workplace between leaving, driving, waiting and getting seen, driving back and going through security,” Orgeron said. “With our fine tuning, we usually get the patients in and out in about 20 minutes.”
East said employees have made more than 130 visits to the clinic and cold symptoms, migraines, cortisone shots and skin rashes are among the more common reasons. “Really anything that you would go to the walk-in clinic for,” she added.
The company has expanded some health services based on employee feedback.
“Most recently, we started offering prescription delivery from a local pharmacy. We also do flu shots and some wellness type care so people can go and get that quickly and they don’t have to use vacation time,” East said.
Next year, the focus will be on wellness screenings and in the next year, the company also plans to relocate the clinic to a larger space within its facility, she said.
Brian Kirk, vice president of physician practices at Lafayette General, said the clinic at Stuller is the first telemedicine venture for the hospital, which is in talks with other interested companies.
He said an expansion of services offered by the telemedicine clinic at Stuller is also planned.
“It’s just an evolving thing,” Kirk said. “I think everybody’s working together in a collaborative manner to make it a win-win for the employee and employers.”