3 ways we're delivering virtual care by Dang Tran, MD

By: Dang Tran, MD., Fairview Health Services

It’s amazing how much technology continues to change our daily lives. Industries like banking, entertainment and retail have been transformed by technology and the internet. Layer on top of this an array of online social networking platforms, and our world really looks different than just a few years ago.

I’m among those who feel a similar transformation is well on its way in health care. Estimates show half of our current health care needs could be served remotely. Fairview is on a journey to use technology to expand our ability to deliver health care virtually. Let me share three examples.

  1. Our physicians and health care providers use an electronic medical record (EMR). This allows our clinicians to provide virtual care via the EMR e-Visit capability. Current Fairview patients can request online care for common health conditions. These range from minor illness like sinus infections to follow-up e-Visits for chronic conditions like high blood pressure. This care is delivered to patients as part of their ongoing relationship with one of Fairview’s excellent primary care providers.
  2. We also have begun using virtual platforms to assist patients who are trying to live a healthier lifestyle. One example is Novu, an online health and wellness app centered on healthy eating, exercise, sleep and stress management. Currently we are using this platform to help patients quit smoking, lose weight, and prevent diabetes. Early results are promising, though studies are ongoing.
  3. My first two examples focus on patients who already have an existing relationship with Fairview. This is intentional, as it highlights my strong belief in the importance of patients having a consistent primary care provider. There is no substitute for this ongoing, trusting relationship, whether the care is provided in person or virtually.

Yet, not everyone has a consistent primary care provider and many are looking for the convenience of online care. Fairview offers an exciting service, Zipnosis, through which we can safely evaluate more than 50 common, acute illnesses like bladder infections, sinus infections and the common cold. Any Minnesota resident can receive an online assessment and treatment at Fairview.org/zipnosis. A quick history is gathered and a Fairview provider gives an online diagnosis and treatment, within one hour, if clinically appropriate. For patients, this is a low-cost, quick way to receive high-quality care.

Although technology has created these wonderful new ways for us to provide care for our patients, it does present some challenges. Virtual care is often more convenient and less costly, yet it can lead to further fragmentation of care as patients receive care from multiple sources. At Fairview, we have addressed this by creating a web portal, https://www.fairview.org/MyChart, where patients can safely access all the care they need, whether in person or virtually.

I firmly believe the benefits of virtual care outweigh the potential risks. It really is the way care will be delivered in the future.

Do you have an experience with online care that you would like to share? Comment below.

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