Mountrail County Medical Center is now offering virtual visits through telemedicine.
For non-urgent visits such as medication refills, routine follow-up appointments, etc., they are encouraging all patients to consider the telemedicine visits.
Tammie Braaflat, FNP says that from a Primary Care Provider perspective they are able to still offer the same level of care, without requiring unnecessary travel during the pandemic. Patient’s routine healthcare needs have not stopped due to COVID-19 and medical conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma and depression can all be managed through telemedicine. Feedback from the patient perspective has been overwhelmingly positive as most patients needing routine care are also being very cautious with leaving their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Telemedicine is not new, especially in rural areas. Mental health, psychologists and counseling professionals have used this method for quite some time, and most specialty visits through the VA Health System are done by Telehealth.
Braaflat says it is easy for a patient to switch their currently scheduled appointment to telemedicine. They would just need to call the receptionist at the Clinic at the Mountrail County Medical Center and ask them to make the switch.
Patients can also schedule new appointments the same way. Patients that are unsure if they need an appointment can call the clinic. If the receptionist is unsure, they will transfer you to a nurse for more information.
There are many ways to use the technology at the clinic beyond the telemedicine. Patients can email their provider through the patient portal. That allows them to directly message their provider with simple questions like whether they need an appointment. The receptionist should be able to help you set up the patient portal if you have not already done so.
Telemedicine appointments are very easy to navigate with a computer, tablet or smartphone. It uses video and audio allowing patients and their provider can to see each other. Patients without access to a smartphone, computer, tablet etc. can visit with their provider over the phone.
The clinic has been working to set up schedules for all providers as they face the potential challenges with COVID-19. There is a designated provider on-call 24/7 to manage acute emergent and non-emergent patient concerns. Patients with acute healthcare concerns are urged to contact the clinic directly during normal business hours to speak with a nurse to arrange for the most appropriate visit.
Currently most of our acute visits are being managed through the Emergency Department by the Emergency Provider on-call. Any patient with fever, cough, or any other respiratory symptoms are being treated and screened separately in specially designated area of the hospital.
A different provider is on staff in the clinic for non-acute/non-urgent clinic services and taking care of the residents in the Bethel Home. Braaflat said she had been working in the clinic for the past two weeks, which has also lowered her exposure risk to potential COVID-19 patients.
This helps to ensure they are taking the best care possible for all patients, and especially those in the nursing home. Braaflat says that a lot of planning has been going on to ensure the care provided within the hospital, clinic, and Bethel Home is done in the safest manner taking into consideration the fragile nature of the nursing home population.
Braaflat says that for the last two weeks most of her clinic visits have been telehealth visits. Anyone that has called has been encouraged to schedule their visits through telehealth if possible. She says that they
have been handling a wide range of visits this way, including those health conditions like diabetes, etc., as well as rashes, prescription refills and more. If during the visit they determine a patient needs to have lab work, or radiology they are ordering the appropriate tests at which time the patient would have to come to the hospital.
With the MCHC campus doors locked, Braaflat says patients might drive by and see an empty parking lot. This is because of the telehealth. A lot of time and energy has gone into planning how to best take care of the community, patients and residents. They are still there wanting to provide the services patients need, especially during this stressful time when more people are facing uncertainty with employment, anxiety and depression. She says it is important that patients can still access their primary care.
Braaflat also says that Medicare and many insurance companies have removed many of the restrictions on telehealth visits, meaning they can bill insurance just like a regular clinic visit.
Connecting to your provider for a telemedicine appointment is very easy. You go to the Mountrail County Health Center webpage at stanleyhealth.org. On the home page there are links to connect to each of the providers. You check in within a few minutes of your appointment time and are connected.
Virtual physical therapy visits are also possible for patients for follow up appointments. The initial appointment would be conducted face-to-face, but follow up appointments may be done virtually.
This article has been republished with the gracious consent of the Mountrail County Promoter.