Sanford encourages video visits for regular appointments

Patients can see their providers from the comfort and safe distance of home

Sanford encourages video visits for regular appointments

As we distance ourselves physically in the coronavirus pandemic, staying connected through video technology has become a big part of the conversation.

Telemedicine services between Sanford Health patients and providers have been available for nearly 10 years. But the spread of COVID-19 has now made it easier for more providers and patients to connect.

Shifting in-person appointments to a video visit

“We’ve had questions about whether or not to come into the clinic, or if we can do this a different way,” said Jennifer Morrison, senior executive director of patient experience and digital operations for Sanford Health. “For a lot of those visits, we’ve been able to switch them to video and see them in their home while still being able to provide them that high-quality, safe care.”

“We’ve heard a lot about social distancing. This is one way for us to do that,” said Sanford Health medical oncologist Jonathan Bleeker, M.D. He’s no stranger to this type of care.

“That’s something I’ve been doing for years and something I’m fairly comfortable with,” Dr. Bleeker said.

Lately, he said, it has been a balance trying to determine what’s right for each patient. Many of his are believed to be at a higher risk.

“Patients are scared right now. That uncertainty is very unsettling for all of us. In our world, we have patients that are dealing with a cancer diagnosis, and now this on top of it. Even though it’s not the same as an in-person visit, being able to see a familiar face and hearing a familiar voice, talk about familiar things,” Dr. Bleeker said.

“On the flip side, we want to make sure our patients don’t feel abandoned or lost, right? They really value their regularly scheduled visits with their oncologists to be able to ask questions, check in about symptoms, conversations about plans going forward.”

When in doubt, call to make a plan

“Maybe that plan is to see you via video, or maybe that plan is to see you in the clinic, but we want to cater to your needs and keep you safe,” Morrison said.

And so far, patients like Bob Goettle in Fargo are grateful to have options.

“I thought it was a great experience,” Goettle said.

Bob Goettle, seen on a computer screen, talks via video chat with Sanford Health News multimedia journalist Courtney Collen, whose back is to the camera.
Bob Goettle talks about his experience with a virtual medical appointment with Sanford Health News multimedia journalist Courtney Collen.

Photo by Max Jensen, Sanford Health

When asked if it was his first time trying a video visit, Goettle answered yes. “It was everything I thought it was going to be. Actually, a little better than I thought it was going to be. I was concerned with the quality with video — speed issues.”

Goettle encourages others to give it a try, even if they’re apprehensive about technology.

“I could see a huge advantage to doing this for elderly people if they’re following up on test results, prescription refilled,” he said. “I could see how this could be an amazing, safe tool for them. They’d get what they need out of this.”

The ability to offer more video connections between patients and their providers has been part of Sanford’s long-term plan. The coronavirus pandemic has allowed that to happen a little quicker.

“The overall goal is to see patients in the comfort of their home,” Morrison said. “By these changes and regulations, we’ve actually been able to do that faster.”

Things to keep in mind

  • If you’re not sure about your upcoming appointment or you’re looking make an appointment, contact your clinic to determine if it should be in-person or virtual care.
  • If you have a high risk of developing more severe symptoms, connect with your provider to determine the best plan to keep you safe.
  • Need urgent care for other concerns? Log onto your MySanfordChart or call your provider.
  • If you have any questions or concerns, contact your clinic to determine the best plan moving forward for any regularly scheduled visits or changes to your health.
  • If your provider determines an in-person visit is best for you, be assured that all clinic facilities are regularly cleaned and sanitized as directed by the CDC.
  • Experiencing COVID-19 symptoms including a fever, shortness of breath or a cough? Log onto the MySanford Chart and fill out the COVID-19 eVisit form.

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Posted In Behavioral Health, Cancer, COVID-19, Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, Rural Health, Specialty Care, Virtual Care, Wellness