Beauregard Health System: Multi-specialty telemedicine raises care standards in rural Louisiana
Beauregard Health System is a rural, 49-bed not-for-profit acute care hospital located in Deridder, Louisiana. Beauregard is a role model for hospitals across the country through its innovative use of telemedicine to enable high-quality clinical care without the constraints of its rural location or the brick-and-mortar walls of the hospital. Starting in 2019, Beauregard began implementing hospital-based, acute telemedicine programs across four specialty service lines, including neurology, psychiatry, critical care, and cardiology.
- SOC Telemed Solutions: teleNeurology, teleICU, telePsychiatry and teleCardiology utilizing Telemed IQ
- Reduced patient transfers
- Increased case mix index (CMI)
- Increased staff satisfaction
Beauregard had a full-time cardiologist, an independent practitioner, who provided care at the hospital Monday through Friday for 12 years. He traveled out of state on the weekends. As the only local cardiologist associated with the hospital, he was also always on call. When he decided to close his Deridder practice and relocate to Texas, Beauregard was left in a very susceptible position.
“We didn’t have a whole lot of notice. It made us realize how vulnerable we are in this rural community,” expressed Traci Thibodeaux, chief executive officer.
Upon his departure, the community health system felt a huge gap. Being wholly dependent from an acute care standpoint upon one full-time specialist highlighted how quickly the hospital could be shortstaffed. “We saw significant outmigration—to the tune of 30 cases per month—being transferred for cardiac-related issues,” Thibodeaux noted.
Two large cardiology programs, located 1.5 hours away, expressed interest in supporting the hospital, but they couldn’t meet the hospital’s requirement for on-call response time due to the distance. Their practices were well-established in the larger metro areas, and the providers were reluctant to drive to Deridder every day to provide cardiology care to local patients.
Beauregard explored using local providers to help ensure patient retention and comfort but needed a practical and efficient approach. Having already deployed teleNeurology, teleICU and telePsychiatry, adding teleCardiology was the next logical step.
Flexible Physician Deployment
The flexibility of SOC Telemed’s clinician deployment model was a vital piece of the decision-making process. “With SOC, the ability to have a hybrid approach to how we use providers really appealed to me. In some services, like general neurology, we use SOC’s nationwide panel of specialists. Still, in other specialties, where we could take advantage of our partnership with local providers, SOC allowed us to do that as well,” explained Thibodeaux.
Before launching telemedicine with SOC Telemed, Beauregard had taken a “grassroots” approach to telePsychiatry. It received some grant funding and decided to build its own telemedicine cart. However, the health system quickly realized it needed a software platform that would help them understand physician availability and patient readiness.
For Beauregard, the clinical value of having a single platform for multiple telemedicine service lines is evident. From any location in the hospital, clinical staff can access neurology, psychiatry, critical care, and cardiology consults.
“From a utilization perspective, the staff only needs to learn and manage one system, one workflow, and one cart. That was very important to me in the decision-making process. I was not going to leave our psychiatry consults on the grassroots solution and then have another provider for neurology and another for cardiology,” stated Thibodeaux.
- Access to board-certified physicians across four service lines
- Broadening access to comprehensive care through technology and physician partnership
- Decrease in transfers for patient care
- Increase hospital staff satisfaction
Beauregard has put a focus on communicating the value of telemedicine to its community. Its message is that patients don’t have to be afraid of technology and that telemedicine allows them access to some of the best specialty doctors in the nation. Beauregard also serves as a gateway for patients who require higher levels of care from larger health centers. In many cases, telemedicine allows Beauregard to safely care for patients with complex issues onsite, keeping them closer to home for their care and recovery. For example, Beauregard was able to keep their hospital running during the pandemic and provide a higher level of care, including transfusion of Convalescent plasma.
In addition to better patient care, ICU nurse Cindy Hamilton feels that telemedicine has enhanced her nursing capabilities. “Because of telemedicine, we have become better nurses, our skills have sharpened, and along with SOC, we can give excellent care to our community,” she noted.
“We are a great first line of defense for our community. We provide high-quality care for patients across a wide spectrum of medical issues. Should any of our patients need additional care or services, Beauregard has strong partnerships established with several metropolitan medical centers that work with us to facilitate transfers as needed. We are invested in our community which is why we are investing in our hospital to provide comprehensive care to everyone we serve,” said Thibodeaux.
The Future of Telemedicine at Beauregard
Beauregard uses SOC Telemed’s platform to fill coverage gaps and keep patients close to home while maintaining the standard of care the community has come to expect.
Prior to COVID-19, Beauregard was already planning to expand its telemedicine footprint. The hospital’s experience with COVID-19 cases confi rmed that they were on the right track.
“We are lucky to be ahead of the COVID crisis and glad we laid the groundwork for telemedicine,” stated Thibodeaux. “We have definitely used the SOC carts for COVID care. We have had as many as 20 COVID patients at the hospital at any one time. Telemedicine has been a huge part of our care efforts and a lifesaver for preserving our one pulmonologist. It allows the staff to be protected, supported and deliver the timely care needed for these patients,” Thibodeaux noted.
Thibodeaux says that one silver lining of COVID is that it forced the team to embrace telemedicine rapidly. “Our team wants to use the technology for safety—both staff safety and patient safety.”