Essentia Health Virtual Telemedicine Services Support Rural Hospitals and Clinics

Tuesday, March 13th, 2018
This post was written by Patricia Donovan

Essentia Health conducts 5,000 virtual visits annually.

There may be some challenges associated with Essentia Health’s comprehensive telemedicine program, but provider engagement isn’t one of them.

“In the seven years I have been with Essentia Health, I have not gone to any provider to ask them to do telehealth,” notes Maureen Ideker, RN, BSN, MBA, the organization’s senior advisor for telehealth. Instead, physicians seek out Ms. Ideker, asking to be connected to any of Essentia Health’s six hospital-based and more than 20 clinic-based telehealth services.

Such robust telemedicine adoption among Essentia Health’s more than 800 physicians may be one reason why the organization averages 5,000 virtual visits annually, and why it has another 10 to 20 new telehealth offerings in development, according to Ms. Ideker’s presentation during Telemedicine Across the Care Continuum: Boosting Health Clinic Revenue and Closing Care Gaps.

The largely rural footprint of Essentia Health, which touches the three states of Minnesota, Wisconsin and North Dakota, is ideally suited to telehealth implementation. During this March 2018 webinar, which is now available for rebroadcast, Ms. Ideker outlined her organization’s telehealth program models, history of program development, and equipment and staffing requirements. She also shared key program outcomes, such as the impact of remote patient monitoring on hospital readmissions and clinic ROI from telehealth.

For example, the 30-day readmission rate for Essentia Health patients with heart failure remotely monitored at home is 2 percent, versus its non-monitored heart failure patients (9 percent) and the national 30-day readmissions average of 24 percent.

Essentia Health’s hospital-based telemedicine began with an emergency room platform, which includes pediatric ER and pharmacy and toxicology and a soon-to-be-added behavioral health component. Today, hospitalist and stroke care are the largest of Essentia Health’s hospital-based telemedicine programs, explained Ms. Ideker. These virtual services support Essentia Health’s rural hospitals in five key ways, including the avoidance of unnecessary patient transfers.

On the outpatient side, the 20-something tele-clinic based services developed by Essentia Health over the last seven years run the gamut from allergy and infant audiology to urology and vascular conditions, she explained. Her organization’s telemedicine approach to opioid tapering is catching on across Minnesota, she added.

And while it is appreciative of its providers’ enthusiasm, Essentia Health approaches telehealth development with precision, consulting data analytics such as metrics on annual health screenings to create target groups for new services. The launching of a new telemedicine service can take up to twelve weeks, using a 75-item checklist and an implementation retreat and walk-through, Ms. Ideker explained.

In closing, Ms. Ideker shared several innovation stories from its portfolio of telehealth offerings, including Code Weather, employed during hazardous weather for patient safety reasons and to reduce cancellations of appointments, and a gastroenterology initiative designed to reduce no-show rates.

Listen to Maureen Ideker explain how Essentia Health pairs remote patients with hospital- and clinic-based telehealth services.

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