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Published on March 31, 2020

Virtual Visits and Other Changes in Clinic Care During COVID-19 Outbreak

Avera is temporarily changing its clinic practices in order to protect patients and employees, and conserve resources during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Unless a patient’s health need is urgent or emergent, provider visits are being scheduled virtually instead of in person. Providers across the Avera system are able to schedule virtual visits, which are face-to-face visits via smartphone, tablet or computer. If any medications are needed, these can be prescribed via the virtual visit. Outreach visits may be done via virtual visits during the coming weeks as well.

“Avera providers are eager to stay in touch with their patients and address their ongoing health care needs. 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. Patients can schedule virtual visits by calling their regular clinic number.

Adult annual wellness visits are being postponed or scheduled for a later date. Avera is continuing to schedule well-child visits for children age 2 and younger so children can stay up-to-date on their immunizations.

Clinics are separating care by timeframe or location to isolate patients with possible illness due to COVID-19 from patients who do not have symptoms of the virus.

Symptoms of COVID-19 are fever over 100 degrees, cough and shortness of breath. Anyone who feels they may have this virus are asked to call their clinic or 1-877-AT-AVERA (1-877-282-8372) first before visiting the clinic in person.

Patients with upper respiratory symptoms who are going to be seen in a clinic are asked to report these symptoms in advance by phone. Not reporting these symptoms puts health care workers at risk. If exposed, they may need to be in isolation and are unable to care for patients for weeks. In Minnesota for example, 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 heart attacks, accidents and severe cases of COVID-19,” said Kevin Post, DO, Chief Medical Officer for Avera Medical Group.

As announced earlier, Avera is continuing to reschedule elective outpatient procedures. Patients impacted will be contacted by phone or letter.

Also, Avera facilities continue to allow no visitors in clinics, hospitals and nursing homes, with exceptions made in the case of end-of-life, maternity and pediatric care. Avera encourages other ways to keep in touch including phone calls, texts and video chat.

Avera asks for the public’s help to “flatten the curve” and slow the spread of COVID-19. Here’s what you can do:

  • Stay home. Work from home if you can, avoid crowds, buy only what you need, and call your pharmacy about drug refill limits.
  • Practice good hygiene: Wash your hands often, cover your cough or sneeze, and disinfect shared spaces.
  • If you do get sick, isolate at home.

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