Published on May 01, 2020

Use of virtual care at Essentia Health soars during COVID-19 pandemic

Essentia Health ranks among industry leaders in its robust use of virtual visits, ensuring our patients continue to receive high-quality care during the coronavirus crisis.

“We had been working toward this goal prior to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Rich Vetter, chief medical officer at Essentia. “The pandemic certainly accelerated our plans and moved the launch date forward.”

Essentia’s first virtual visit was conducted on March 16, 2020, and since then we’ve conducted about 76,000. More than 3,000 visits occur most days, and at any given moment there could be 100-plus visits happening simultaneously.

A virtual visit is a video appointment that occurs directly between a provider and a patient. The patient can do the visit from the comfort of their home and utilize their own technology such as a computer, tablet or smartphone.

Patients are appreciative of being able to continue necessary doctor appointments while abiding by stay-at-home orders implemented to slow the spread of COVID-19. Essentia Health is providing excellent and safe patient care in a different way.

We are using virtual visits in areas you might not expect. Examples include physical, occupational and speech language therapy; orthopedics; behavioral medicine; obstetrics; heart and vascular; and others. Both new and existing patients are being seen via this technology. The results have been impressive.

“By adopting this technology, Essentia Health has been able to provide safe and quality patient care in a new and creative way,” said Dr. Sarah Manney, chief medical information officer at Essentia. “We are continuing to care for our patients throughout this crisis.”

Blaire Ziebol, a 23-year-old Superior resident, appreciates the convenience of virtual visits. Ziebol suffered a concussion about five months ago. Initially, she would meet in person with Kelly Kleinschmidt, a nurse practitioner at Essentia. Ziebol’s past three visits, however, have been conducted virtually. They last between 10-15 minutes. Ziebol shares her symptoms and will do balance exercises so Kleinschmidt can further assess her progress.

“It’s really quick and easy, and I don’t have to worry about coming in and being exposed to others who might be sick,” Ziebol said. “It gives me peace of mind. I really appreciate being able to do them from home.”

What other patients are saying:

  • “I really like that we didn’t need to go in. I’ve had three colon surgeries. It’s good to know we can keep up on our care without comprising our health by going in during this time. We got all the care we needed.”

  • “We utilized this option today and couldn’t be more impressed! Appointment, response AND prescription in hand — all within an hour! The best part: I didn’t have to take my little one out and into a clinic! Way to go, Essentia!”

  • “I used this technology for a 45-minute visit and assessment on Friday and it was great! So nice to have another option besides rescheduling when this crisis lifts. Another way to protect the courageous health care providers in our community.”

  • “I’ve done two of these from my iPhone and they’ve gone great! … I appreciate Essentia taking measures to keep us safe.”

These comments either came from social media or were shared directly with Essentia Health.

To coordinate interviews, photos, and/or video, contact the media relations team.

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