The Minnesota Legislature is considering a bill – introduced this week – that would mandate coverage for medical care delivered via telehealth technology. If the proposal passes, Minnesota would join 22 other states and the District of Columbia in covering such care.
|Maureen Ideker, Essentia's director of telehealth, spoke during a news conference in St. Paul Wednesday. She's flanked by lawmakers from across the state who support the telehealth legislation.
The Minnesota Hospital Association backs the bill, saying it would bring specialists to rural hospitals and clinics, making it easier for people to get care before health problems become an emergency. Telehealth is an increasingly used technology to bring healthcare resources, including specialists, to people and communities that otherwise would have difficulty accessing them. The technology has been shown to increase access to healthcare services, improve health outcomes for patients and reduce healthcare costs.
Maureen Ideker, Essentia Health’s director of telehealth, appeared in St. Paul to address lawmakers.
“Passing this bill would help us use this technology to bring a broader range of key care services to vulnerable patients. For example, we could provide crucial education about managing serious diseases, such as diabetes,” Ideker says. “Additionally, telemedicine visits for patients living in assisted living or group homes are not covered under current policy, so they have to be taken to another site to receive telemedicine services or to a physical clinic, which can be very disruptive.”
Currently, many of Minnesota’s health plans pay for certain telemedicine services. Coverage for these services, however, is not consistent across insurance companies and the types of providers eligible for reimbursement are considered too narrow by the MHA. Essentia would look at expanding telehealth programs to include additional medical professionals such as audiologists, genetic counselors, diabetic nurse educators, pharmacists and speech therapists, if the legislation passes and allows these services to be reimbursed.
Existing telemedicine programs across the state have already made a dramatic impact in better access to health services and improving quality outcomes, like lower patient transfer and readmission rates, faster access to specialists, shorter hospitals stays and better survival rates. For patients in outstate Minnesota, where distance and specialist availability are limited, these are important healthcare quality improvements.
“Telehealth is a critical tool, not only for greater Minnesota but also for the entire state,” says Sen. Julie Rosen, a ranking member of the Senate Health and Human Services Finance Committee and one of the measure’s co-sponsors. “Whether allowing home-bound seniors to check in with their doctor or connecting rural clinics to physicians at emergency room trauma centers many miles away, these are technologies that are improving our state’s healthcare system.”
Click on the PDF below to see where states have enacted telehealth legislation. Click here for the MHA's fact sheet on the telehealth act. Click here for today's Media Alerts on telehealth.
Download File (pdf)
Registered Nurse Collette Christoffers, who works in the
Birthing Center at Essentia Health-Fargo, recently completed a project on
breastfeeding for her master’s degree in nursing education at North Dakota State
University. Christoffers worked with Senior Research Scientist Pat
Conway at the Essentia Institute of Rural Health.
The project looked at the breastfeeding support offered to new mothers after
they leave Essentia Health. Christoffers interviewed mothers regarding their
experience with Tender Transitions, a breastfeeding support group that is
offered at Essentia Health-Fargo and other nearby hospitals.
“While more research is needed, trends can be seen on how Tender Transitions
benefits mothers who breastfeed, especially first-time mothers,” Christoffers
says. “Mothers in the study reported higher satisfaction with breastfeeding as a
result of their participation in the support group. One said, ‘I would not have
been able to breastfeed successfully without Tender Transitions.’ ”
Support is especially critical for new mothers who are recovering from
delivery, learning to breastfeed and balancing hospital visitors with infant
care and sleep deprivation. New parents can be easily overwhelmed in the first
few days of their baby’s life, Christoffers says. Sixty percent of the mothers
looked to lactation nurses as their primary education source for breastfeeding
information, she added.
Christoffers says the benefits of breastfeeding are well-documented. Breast
milk contains hormones and enzymes that work in harmony to aid in a baby’s
digestion and support an infant’s immunity and growth.
“It’s inspiring. Colette did all the work, while being a mom and also working
for Essentia Health,” Conway says.
The Essentia Institute of Rural Health and its Continuing Medical Education
team present a four-part series on “The Art & Practice of Medicine.”
|Dr. Daniel Nikcevich
The series launches Friday with a presentation by East Region President and
Chief Medical Officer Dr. Daniel Nikcevich. He’ll speak from
7-8 a.m. in the Auditorium at Essentia Health-St. Mary’s Medical Center.
The series, open to all staff across our health system, is available by
videoconference and MOVI. It also can be livestreamed. Click on the PDF below
for complete details.
All sessions are scheduled from 7-8 a.m. Fridays in the Auditorium at St.
Mary’s Medical Center.
The other presenters include:
- Feb. 6: Mary Koloroutis, chief executive officer of Creative HealthCare
Management of Minnesota. Her topic is “Therapeutic Practices to Strengthen
Quality, Safety and the Patient Experience.”
- Feb. 13: Dr. Marc Myer, director of the Health Care Professionals Program at
the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. His topic is “Physician Resiliency:
Addiction and Recovery.”
- Feb. 27: Dr. Howard Epstein, chief medical officer of Preferred One. His
topic is “Choosing Wisely: Making Smart and Effective Care Choices.”
Download File (pdf)
Kayla Keigley, MPH, has joined the Essentia Institute of
Rural Health as a Community Health Program Manager.
Keigley has ties to the Northland. She was born in Virginia, Minn., lived in
Eveleth until sixth grade and attended high school in Grand Rapids. Keigley even
has a previous tie to Essentia. After college, she worked briefly as a Certified
Nursing Assistant in the Medical ICU at St. Mary’s Medical Center.
“I’ve received a very warm welcome. I’m eager to meet people and get out to
all of the hospitals in our health system,” Keigley says. “I’m very passionate
about this work. I’m optimistic we can better community health and wellness
before people are admitted to the hospital.”
Keigley will play a crucial role in Essentia’s community health assessments,
which the government requires non-profit hospitals to conduct every three years.
The assessments are used to create plans for addressing priority health needs in
Previously, Keigley worked as a senior adviser for the
MESH Coalition, an Indianapolis-based healthcare nonprofit. Before that, she was
the project manager for the Community Health Information Collaborative in
Keigley has a master’s degree in public health from the University of
Minnesota and a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Dakota.
Keigley’s family includes her husband, Brent, an airline pilot; and their
daughters, Audrey, 5, and Mari, 3.
When she’s not working, Keigley enjoys travel, hiking and exploring Duluth.
One of her passions is being a running ambassador for Every Mother Counts, a
nonprofit organization that raises awareness about maternal health.
“We run marathons, half marathons and other races to raise awareness about
preventable deaths in childbirth and pregnancy,” she says. “Many women around
the world live from five kilometers to 26 miles, by foot, to an actual hospital.
That is why we run to raise awareness.”
Last summer, Christie Erickson – a nurse practitioner at
Essentia Health’s Hermantown Clinic – saw that the Journal for Nurse
Practitioners was seeking articles looking at innovative technologies for
providing patient care and improving nursing education. Erickson, who is
preparing to complete her doctorate in nursing practice at the College of St.
Scholastica, had just finished her 100-page thesis. The topic was integrating
telehealth into graduate level nursing curriculums.
“I had never intended to get my thesis published, but when I read that the
journal was seeking articles, I thought ‘I kind of have to do this,’ ” Erickson
says. “They accepted my paper in June and I spent the summer fine-tuning the
article and boiling it down to 5,000 words.”
|Hermantown Clinic Nurse Practitioner Christie Erickson (left) works
with Clinical Assistant Holli DeRosia. Erickson had her research on telehealth
published in the Journal for Nurse
The Journal for Nurse Practitioners, with a circulation of 90,000 readers
nationwide, is a prestigious journal that features original research and serves
as a venue for discussion and feedback on issues affecting nurse
Kate Dean, director of Health Science and Medical Education
at the Essentia Institute of Rural Health, says Erickson’s publication is a
major achievement. “Getting published in a journal like this is not easy.
Christie’s work, conducted in collaboration with Essentia Director of Telehealth
Maureen Ideker, is of high quality and very
relevant as we look toward the future of healthcare delivery. The article also
highlights Essentia’s forward-thinking approach to telehealth,” Dean says.
Telehealth uses video technology to connect patients and medical
professionals. It allows patients to interact in real time with a long-distance
physician, specialist, nurse practitioner, physician assistant, dietitian or
pharmacist from the convenience of patients' local hospitals or clinics,
avoiding long trips to out-of-town specialists. Essentia currently has
telehealth in more than 20 different specialties at 25 sites.
While researching her thesis, Erickson noted only one medical school in the
country offered telehealth as an elective. Many used telehealth capabilities for
lectures and videoconferences, but none used it for direct patient care.
“Because telehealth is a means for providing services to underserved, rural
populations, it’s vital to incorporate such education in technology into
graduate nursing curriculums,” explains Erickson, who began her career 22 years
ago as a registered nurse at St. Mary’s Medical Center. “Expanding telehealth
services are a reality. It’s a way for a new graduates to collaborate with other
medical professionals and allows the rural nurse practitioner to feel less
isolated and more supported.”
Erickson became deeply involved in telehealth about six years ago when the
College of St. Scholastica in Duluth received a grant to purchase several
telehealth carts. The college donated the carts to Essentia Health on the
condition that Essentia would provide services and teach Scholastica students by
offering clinical opportunities. That’s when Erickson got involved.
“Credit goes to those who initially started to do telehealth in Essentia –
dietitians and nurse practitioners in the congestive heart failure clinic at St.
Mary’s Heart & Vascular Center and the Diabetes Center at the Duluth Clinic.
Those individuals were teaching students while learning the new technology
themselves,” Erickson says.
Dean notes that the Education Department at EIRH works with many graduate
students on quality improvement and other projects. “While Essentia provides the
resources and location for learning, the findings from these studies often
influence our practice and procedures, helping us to enhance and improve patient
care,” she explains.
We’ve attached Erickson’s journal article below.
Download File (pdf)
Essentia Health Acute Care and Ambulatory Care pharmacy residents presented their research posters last month at the American Society of Health Systems Pharmacist Midyear Clinical Meeting in Anaheim, Calif.
The residents collaborate in research through the Essentia Institute of Rural Health, along with preceptor and PharmD Krista Huot.
The residents perform population-based epidemiological research with the guidance of senior researcher M. Nawal Lutfiyya of the University of Minnesota. Currently, the residents are completing the manuscripts of their research to prepare submission for publication.
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