ST. MARTIN PARISH, La. (KLFY)- Rural hospitals are getting greater access to specialized doctors like they never have before.
Telemedicine is connecting big-city doctors to small towns, allowing patients to heal closer to home.
New 10 looked at how doctors at St. Martin Hospital are using robotic specialists to help heal patients.
It’s just that simple. A heart patient comes in. The doctor gives a call and a cardiac specialist speaks directly to the patient through a robot.
“It’s like bringing big city medicine out to the country. patients get the same access to a heart doctor then if they were to drive to Lafayette or Baton Rouge and they have a right here in Breaux Bridge,” said Dr. Blaine Lavergne Medical Director for St. Martin Hospital.
St. Martin Hospital has partnered with the Cardiovascular Institute of the South in Lafayette to bring telemedicine to Breaux Bridge.
It’s for patients like Mitchell Borel, who had a previous heart attack in June and recently came into the emergency room with heart disease symptoms.
“I had low blood pressure, very low blood pressure,” said Borel. “I got a couple of bags of IV and it came back up and I’m feeling much better.”
The specialist from CIS dialed in and Lavergne briefed him on his tests and lab results.
The cardiac specialist then examined Borel himself – through the robot.
“It’s interactive. We can put the stethoscope on the patient,” Lavergne said. “We can hear the heart sounds, they can hear the lungs. they can do almost essentially a whole exam through the nurse using a stethoscope that’s attached to the robot.”
The cardiologist can help guide the patient and doctor about the next steps, whether the patient needs to be admitted or in serious cases – transferred to a bigger hospital in Lafayette.
St. Martin Hospital CEO Karen Wyble says they use to transfer 100 percent of cardiac patients because they didn’t have access to the specialists.
“What we’ve realized since we’ve started using telemedicine is that we’re now keeping the majority of our heart attack patients,” Wyble said. “We transfer out less than 23 percent of those patients who present to us in our ed with cardiac type of diseases.”
Borel was able to stay in his hometown of Breaux Bridge, where St. Martin Hospital doctors monitored him.
He made a full recovery.
“It’s very educational and time saving,” he said. “It saves a lot of time instead of trying to go to them or them coming to me.”