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Virtual care helps Essentia Health reduce face-to-face visits, COVID-19 spread

May 18, 2020 09:15AM ● By MED Magazine

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Essentia Health aggressively rolled out its virtual-care plan in mid-March. Since then, we have performed more than 108,000 virtual visits and 13,000 E-visits.

By our own estimate, each face-to-face appointment at Essentia involves contact with a minimum of five other individuals. Thus, we are confident that our virtual care has resulted in more than 600,000 fewer face-to-face contacts, thereby reducing the spread of COVID-19. The doubling rate — how long it takes for the number of confirmed cases to double — in our community has increased dramatically over the past six weeks, climbing from five days to more than 30.

“The reason this has occurred is because our community has done an excellent job of social distancing,” said Dr. Sarah Manney, Essentia’s chief medical information officer. “Essentia Health has significantly contributed to the social distancing by eliminating 600,000 patient-to-patient and patient-to-staff contacts in our community.”

Keeping patients at home when care can be delivered virtually has allowed us time to create processes that protect our patients and staff as we start to reintroduce more face-to-face care. These steps include screening everyone who enters one of our facilities; restricting visitors; enhanced cleaning standards; social distancing; and universal masking among our staff and patients.

Of our 13,000-plus E-visits, more than 9,000 have been for patients who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms; E-visits are free for those patients.

By embracing technology, Essentia has become an industry leader in providing virtual care. We are conducting between 3,000 and 3,500 virtual visits per weekday. These are appointments done via video or over the phone and occur directly between a provider and a patient. The patient can do the visit from the comfort of their home and utilize their own technology.

Essentia caregivers are offering virtual visits for a variety of primary care and specialty appointments. E-visits are available for about 20 specific conditions, including the symptoms of COVID-19.

Click here to learn more about E-visits and here to learn more about virtual visits.