Mayo Clinic

To keep vulnerable patients connected to care during the COVID-19 pandemic, Mayo Clinic Health System recently began video health care visits in 17 Southwest Minnesota nursing homes, including the Lutheran Home in Belle Plaine.

Mayo Clinic Health System is providing 17 digital tablets to the nursing facilities, and with just a few clicks, nursing home patients can be connected to providers who can answer health questions and address concerns.

"Many of our nursing home patients are the most vulnerable, and they're in an age group that is associated with higher risks for complications and death from COVID-19," says Susan Laabs, M.D., regional medical director for Senior Services at Mayo Clinic Health System. "These patients can't receive visitors, and they can't leave the facility for care, so this is a good way for our providers to meet with our patients and provide care exactly where they are."

Interest in telehealth has grown during the COVID-19 pandemic as more people look for ways to maintain their health care while staying at home. But Mayo Clinic Health System began enhancing the telehealth tools available for patients to manage their health care and receive services long before the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Mayo Clinic can go out to where our patients are digitally, rather than forcing the patients to come to our facilities if they don't need to be in our buildings for the care they're getting," says Steve Ommen, M.D., medical director for Mayo Clinic's Center for Connected Care, which provides the infrastructure and tools to practice medicine in innovative ways.

Other ways Mayo Clinic Health System plans to bring health care to the patient is through eConsults, rather than phone or face-to-face meetings. Dr. Ommen describes it as the medical version of texting but in an official and secure way. eConsults allow a Mayo specialist to answer a provider's focused question about a patient's diagnosis or therapy, or how to manage a patient.

Another way is through tele-emergency video visits, which already are in place at many medical centers and provide emergency care to patients in rural settings when Mayo Clinic specialists can't physically be there.

Work continues on broadly implementing the video visits through the Center for Connected Care at Mayo Clinic.

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