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

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

By Essentia’s own estimate, each face-to-face appointment at Essentia involves contact with a minimum of five other individuals. Thus, 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 the 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,” Dr. Sarah Manney, Essentia’s chief medical information officer, said in a news release. “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 time to create processes that protect patients and staff as more face-to-face care is reintroduced. These steps include screening everyone who enters an Essentia Health facility; restricting visitors; enhanced cleaning standards; social distancing; and universal masking among staff and patients.

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


By embracing technology, Essentia has conducted 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 use their own technology.

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

Visit to learn more about E-visits and to learn more about virtual visits.

Nancy Vogt is editor of the Pineandlakes Echo Journal, a weekly newspaper that covers eight communities in the Pequot Lakes-Pine River areas - from Nisswa to Hackensack and Pequot Lakes to Crosslake.

She started as editor of the Lake Country Echo in July 2006, and continued in that role when the Lake Country Echo and the Pine River Journal combined in September 2013 to become the Pineandlakes Echo Journal. She worked for the Brainerd Dispatch from 1992-2006 in various roles.

She covers Nisswa, Pequot Lakes, Lake Shore and Crosslake city councils, as well as writes feature stories, news stories and personal columns (Vogt's Notes). She also takes photos at community events.

Contact her at or 218-855-5877 with story ideas or questions. Be sure to leave a voicemail message!
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