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Telemedicine gains a foothold at NU Medical Center

NEW ULM — New Ulm Medical Center (NUMC) is expanding a convenient service for patients and providers.

The new program, telehealth virtual visits, is a way for patients to see their doctor online for certain kinds of visits.

“We started the telehealth virtual visits back in 2017 with a few providers to test out the equipment and the process,” Director of Clinic Operations Jeff Messenger said. “We are now expanding it up to 10 physicians who will be doing the telehealth virtual visits, and those can be done on any web-enabled device.”

The program has been met with positive reviews. Messenger expects it will continue to be a regular option for patients.

“It was actually super easy,” patient Marne Louters said. “I was on vacation in Arizona, so as long as I had LTE 5G or the internet, it was pretty easy to log on.”

Patients log on about 15 minutes ahead of their appointment and a nurse gathers some information. Then they can chat with their doctor.

“It was basically like Facetime on your phone or like Skyping,” Louters, who lives in Des Moines, Iowa, said.

Convenience is the driving force behind NUMC’s decision to start the program, Messenger said.

“I think the advantages are travel, so a patient who lives a half hour or more away, they do not need to come into clinic for a visit, they can do it from their own home,” physician Annette Schmit-Cline said. “It is a time saver, they do not need to get dressed, drive in and drive back and check in. In that way it saves time and hassle.”

Protecting the public is another advantage, Schmit-Cline said. Sick patients do not have enter the public and risk exposing more people.

Staying at home is advantageous for some mental illnesses, like depression or anxiety, where patients prefer avoiding crowded spaces.

There are limits to the program. A patient may still need to come in if they have symptoms of a illness not approved for the service.

“It needs to be something where we can gather most of our information via the camera,” Schmit-Cline said. “Oftentimes we will use it if someone is using it as a follow-up on depression or anxiety.”

The illnesses Messenger listed as available for treatment are: anxiety and anxiety recheck, depression, hypertension, AD-HD rechecks, rashes, sinusitis, sore throat, urinary tract infections, family planning, acne, stomach flu and conjunctivitis.

That list may expand as the program is still in early stages.

Patients can access the telehealth program by requesting it while scheduling a visit. Call (507) 217-5011 to schedule a check up.

Connor Cummiskey can be emailed at ccummiskey@nujournal.com.

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