By REBEKAH ALLEN
Advocate staff writer
August 07, 2012
Parish and medical officials say Baton Rouge is emerging as a one of the strongest destinations for medical services in the country and are banding together to promote the area’s successes regionally and nationally.
Mayor-President Kip Holden said he plans, if re-elected , to increase efforts to advance the medical community’s profile both locally and out-of-state, which he said boosts healthy living and economic development.
“We feel that between the hospitals, and doctors’ groups that have come together, we’re ripe to start advertising really across the country, and let them know exactly what we offer in Baton Rouge,” Holden said.
He cited world-class doctors, nationally recognized medical services at the parish’s hospitals and the internationally lauded studies from Pennington Biomedical Research Center as factors contributing to Baton Rouge’s rising profile.
Holden said too many local residents are traveling outside the parish and state for specialized medical treatments because they’re not aware that Baton Rouge may offer the same quality service.
“We say basically for whatever service you need done, 90 to 95 percent of the time you can find the doctors and facilities to get that service or get that patient helped immediately here,” he said.
Medical leaders agreed that it’s time to tell the nation what Baton Rouge has to offer.
“We have a wonderful story to share here,” said Dr. Floyd Roberts, chief medical officer for Baton Rouge General Medical Center. “In general, communities that promote this image are thought about as healthier and (more) attractive communities.”
Roberts said both Houston and Birmingham, Ala. are considered “regional referral centers” in the medical world for the quality of the services they offer. Baton Rouge can “step up and take advantage of the relative vacuum” of quality service between the two cities, he said.
Roberts said Baton Rouge General has a strong reputation for its cardiovascular and cancer-care services.
Baton Rouge General is already a referral institution for treatment of kidney cancer and malignant melanomas and has one of the oldest, and most well-respected burn centers in the country, he said.
“We get people from a wide area,” he said.
Terrie Sterling, chief operating officer of Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, said cities like Birmingham that have invested in their medical corridors have reaped economic benefits.
She noted that OLOL had an economic impact of $1 billion on the state in 2010, which included $403.7 million of in-state spending by the hospital, employees and visitors.
Sterling said local hospitals are working to attract and recruit quality specialists, which in turn, attracts other doctors to the area.
“Specialists like to aggregate with specialists like themselves” Sterling said “Once you bring in one or two, you attract a long list.”
Sterling cited OLOL’s Children’s Hospital, which is the largest pediatric facility for inpatient care in the state and an affiliate of the St. Jude Children’s Hospital, and the Head and Neck Center and the Voice Center as examples of OLOL’s high-quality programs.
OLOL is also a regional leader for cardiac care, and has one of the largest inpatient cancer treatment facilities in the state, according to hospital officials.
Giles Whiting, chief operating officer of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, said Baton Rouge is on the forefront of important medical studies that address “upcoming epidemics nationally and internationally” including heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
“These are things that Louisiana is good at dealing with, sadly because we have the patient supply and we get used to dealing with it,” Whiting said. “But it gives us a comparative advantage both on the state and national scale and we think that can lead to some really cool things economically.”
Whiting said BRAC, like Holden, is looking for opportunities to market the local medical corridor. He said “being on the cutting edge of treatments” and offering a “high-quality suite of services” will continue to garner national attention to the area.
Holden said the city-parish has already provided $10,000 to Pennington for branding, and will work with the marketing teams of the local medical institutions to find ways to extend their messages. He said he wants to invest more in the telemedicine program that allows doctors to treat patients en route to the emergency rooms.