Avera clinics move to virtual visits during COVID-19 outbreak

More patients at Avera clinics may be seeing their doctors virtually as the Avera system works to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Avera announced that it will be temporarily changing its clinic practices to cut down on in-person visits. Patients may have more appointments scheduled as virtual visits unless they have urgent or emergent health needs. Virtual visits are face-to-face visits held via smartphone, tablet or computer. As the Avera system increases its capacity for virtual visits, more providers will be offering them, the announcement said.

“We are grateful to have technology in place to allow care to take place virtually, when possible, during the COVID-19 crisis,” said Kevin Post, DO, chief medical officer for Avera Medical Group. “We are continually adding to the number of our providers who are set up to offer virtual care.”

Avera’s announcement said medications can also be prescribed through virtual visits.

Adult annual wellness visits are being postponed or scheduled for a later date, Avera said. However, Avera is still scheduling well-child visits for children under the age of 2, because it’s important for children to stay up to date with immunizations.

Hospitals and clinics in the Avera system have already implemented other steps to try and limit the spread of coronavirus, including prohibiting visitors to hospitals and long-term care facilities.

Avera’s announcement said clinics will be separating care, either by time or location, to isolate patients with possible COVID-19 illness from patients who do not have symptoms of the virus. In Marshall, Avera directed well patients to its Carlson Street clinic while seeing patients with respiratory symptoms or other illness to its Bruce Street location.

Patients with upper respiratory symptoms who are going to be seen in a clinic are asked to report those symptoms ahead of time over the phone. Not reporting symptoms puts health care workers at risk, Avera said. The Minnesota Department of Health reports that one in five COVID-19 cases are health care workers.

“We are counting on our patients to help us keep these workers safe,” Post said.

“We want patients to know that we are still here to address their health needs. Everything we are doing is to keep patients and employees safe, while conserving resources for critical needs such as heart attacks, accidents and sever cases of COVID-19,” Post said.

Symptoms of COVID-19 include a fever of over 100 degrees, cough and shortness of breath. Patients who feel they may have COVID-19 are asked to call 1-877-AT-AVERA before visiting the clinic in person.


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