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Louisiana libraries offer patrons access to healthcare

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BATON ROUGE, La. – Eleven library systems across the state will soon offer patrons much-needed access to telehealth services thanks to $50,000 in grants from The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation through the State Library of Louisiana.

The grants will pay for medical equipment such as fingertip pulse oximeters, portable EKG monitors, laptops and tablets, and private booths in libraries where patrons can meet virtually with their doctors.

“These grants present an opportunity to serve our citizens in additional ways,” said Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser. “This will break down barriers that many people face when it comes to their health. Time, location and money are major factors. These grants remove all of them.”

In 2022, ConnectLA worked with the Blue Cross Foundation to recognize that increasing telehealth adoption in the state required better access. The agencies identified the State Library as a unique community anchor institution and reviewed proposals and funded telehealth equipment for the library systems of Beauregard, Cameron, Concordia, East Carroll, Franklin, Ouachita, St. John the Baptist, Union, Vermillion, Washington, and West Baton Rouge parishes.

“It’s been a long time since libraries were simply a place to check out books or do research. They are community hubs where people can access services they might not otherwise be able to afford, such as high-speed internet,” said Interim State Librarian Meg Placke. “These grants are just the latest way our state’s libraries are serving their patrons, and there are few needs as important as access to healthcare.”

“Addressing healthcare challenges in rural Louisiana requires innovative partnerships in both broadband access and adoption. In drafting the state's first five-year action plan to address the digital divide, we prioritized the healthcare access gap by increasing broadband availability for telehealth solutions,” said Veneeth Iyengar, Executive Director of ConnectLA. “This partnership is a significant first step in addressing these issues and we are proud to make this happen."

“Telehealth can be incredibly convenient and, for many patients, can be a much quicker and more comfortable way to access care that’s just as effective as an in-person visit,” said Michael Tipton, president of the Blue Cross Foundation. “Research demonstrates that when folks have access to a doctor virtually, they are more likely to access care.”

Anyone interested in using their local library’s telehealth services can find a full list of Louisiana’s public libraries with contact information on the State Library of Louisiana’s website.