Coronavirus is excuse for dental office to move to telehealth

Twin Cities Business interviewed the Minnesota Head & Neck Pain Clinic in Plymouth about their coronavirus-inspired move to telehealth and the door it opens to future telehealth options…

We’re now able to see new patient consultations as well as provide care for our existing patients. I’m hopeful that the government will recognize that telemedicine options improved better access of care. With the deregulation and commitment of insurers to cover the cost of telehealth visits this has the potential to continue an outreach clinic for those in rural or outstate areas or for those that don’t have easy access to care. The nature of what we offer for orofacial pain, TMJ disorders and headaches is unique. I hope that once the acute public health issues that we’re experiencing with the Covid-19 virus subside, we’ll be able to continue to offer these services and improve access to care.

Washburn Center for Children Adopting telehealth with help from Medica

Medica reports

Medica today announced it would allocate $1 million in emergency donations among 18 Minnesota non-profit organizations that play important roles in addressing health needs of the most vulnerable people in communities statewide, especially during the coronavirus pandemic. Funding is being made available through the Medica Foundation.

At least one donation went to telehealth…

Washburn Center for Children [in Minneapolis] will receive $100,000 to advance their telehealth capabilities and meet the urgent mental health needs for children with social, emotional and behavioral problems, and their families.

“Washburn is committed to ensuring access to mental health care for children and families during this unparalleled time,” said Tom Steinmetz, CEO, Washburn Center for Children. “We are grateful for Medica’s emergency response support that will equip our 165 therapists with telehealth tools to connect with families and deliver critical therapies. We are singularly focused on the well-being of children and families we serve and Medica is vital in helping us adapt quickly to meet those needs.”

RiverView Health In Crookston implements telehealth (Polk County)

Crookston Times reports…

During this time of uncertainty, RiverView Health is taking every precaution to protect its patients and staff regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. Telehealth, or video visits, are now offered, when applicable, for patients with chronic conditions and other needs who are able to receive care without visiting a clinic.

Most RiverView providers are now available via telehealth for the following appointments:

  • Follow-ups/rechecks
  • Medication check-in/refills
  • Test results
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Establish care, with limitations of a physical exam

If you already have an appointment for one of the reasons above, you will receive a call from a patient access representative to determine if a telehealth visit is feasible. Most insurance providers have extended coverage to telehealth visits, including Medicare, Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Minnesota, United Healthcare/UMR, and Humana. Your patient access representative can help you determine if your insurance will cover a telehealth visit.

Opportunity: Broadband editor for Institute for Local Self Reliance

Looking for a job? Here’s a good option, right here in Minnesota…

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance is a national nonprofit working to reverse today’s extreme levels of corporate concentration and advance policies to rebuild the economic capacity of local communities. We use in-depth research, reporting, and data analysis to produce influential reports and articles. Our work illuminates the public policy decisions that have fueled concentration and shows how we can change the rules to create a more equitable and democratic future. Our analysis is frequently featured in national news media and sought out by policymakers. We work closely with a broad range of allies to move these ideas and policies.

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) is looking for a Broadband Writer/Editor to join a small team within ILSR focused on ensuring all Americans have fast, affordable, and reliable Internet access.

Get more details.

MN Rural Broadband Coalition Legislative Update: Legislature Passes COVID-19 Emergency Bill, Recesses

Here’s the latest from the MN Broadband Coalition

The Legislature passed a $330 million COVID-19 relief bill on Thursday and recessed until at least April 14. The bill is a package of grants and loans for small businesses, child care, food shelves, healthcare facilities, veterans, housing, and as well as other policy items related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill passed the House 99-4 and the Senate 67-0. It was a strange sight, as lawmakers’ assigned seats were scattered throughout the Capitol building during the debate so they could observe social distancing requirements. Because of space restrictions, only 6 members of the public were allowed to view the debate in-person, with many more watching the live feed online.
The Legislature intends to return on April 14, but that depends entirely on what the pandemic looks like in three weeks, which for now is unclear. When they return, legislators still need to put together a bonding bill, a supplemental budget, and additional support measures related to COVID-19. Legislative leadership has indicated they are willing to move forward with items that have bipartisan support and would require little debate. The Coalition strongly believes that additional funding for broadband is one of those items and we will continue our advocacy for its inclusion.
Governor’s Broadband Task Force Discusses Funding
The Governor’s Broadband Task Force met on March 27 and discussed a number of issues. The Task Force has split into sub-groups and is beginning work on a series of goals and recommendations that will likely melded into a Task Force report at a future date. The conversation of the sub-groups was productive and identified discussion topics like mapping, speed goals, the challenge process, and the Office of Broadband Development.
Task Force Chair Teddy Bekele also indicated his desire to have an additional discussion on potential recommendations to the Legislature and Governor in response to COVID-19. The chair recognized the $30 million annual request and suggested a higher level of funding would be necessary. Permitting, a revolving loan fund, the $5 million grant cap, and raising the state match were other items. The initial response from Task Force members was mixed, but they agreed the issues deserve a thorough discussion in the coming weeks and months. The Coalition continues to believe the Task Force—because of its wide range of stakeholders—is the appropriate place for this conversation to take place. We will monitor and provide feedback should it be necessary.
Reminder to Reach out to Your Legislators and Newspapers
Last week we asked you to considered writing an op-ed for your local newspaper and to reach out to your elected officials to let them know additional broadband should be passed by the Legislature this session. Thank you to those who have already done so! If you haven’t, now is the perfect time. Legislators have gone back to their districts for the next few weeks and will be paying attention to what their constituents have to say.
Here is a sample letter that you should feel free to personalize:
As schools and businesses continue to shut down across the state, we are being asked to work, learn, or receive care from home. But the reality is that thousands of Minnesotans still don’t have access to reliable, high-speed broadband internet.
Giving our children a quality education has always been a priority in Minnesota. Now that our children have been asked to stay home from school, we’re seeing a digital divide between those who have broadband those who do not. Some Minnesota schools are more able to close and employ e-learning solutions than others. It is simply not a viable option for every district in the state. Even though students have connectivity at school, some do not have connectivity in their homes or adequate bandwidth to receive and send online curriculum assignments or projects. Students without access to quality broadband are at a distinct disadvantage from students who have access.
This divide is also present in healthcare. Connecting rural hospitals with their patients via tablet or other smart device is next to impossible if the patient does not have access to the high-speed broadband and technology that drives telehealth services. With increased broadband and a robust telehealth program, rural healthcare providers can treat more patients working with specialists in healthcare system hub sites. We’ve been told “stay home if you are sick.” Broadband would allow you to not only work from home but to receive care from home as well.
The current pandemic has proven that broadband is no different than any other basic service that people need. It is an essential part of our daily lives. We need to do everything we can to ensure border-to-border access, including the Legislature appropriating an additional $30 million in annual funding for the Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Program this year.

Recognizing that rural connectivity doesn’t equal urban connectivity

The Center for Rural Policy and Development looks at the need for broadband in the time of pandemic and the difference in rural, town and urban broadband connections…

In rural areas, having a subscription to an internet service doesn’t equal a quality connection. Counties outside of the seven-county metro have a noticeably lower percentage of households with access to broadband or, in some cases, any internet at all. Figure 1 provides the average percentage of households by internet connection type by county group. The more rural a county is, the more likely it is to have a significantly lower percentage of households with an internet subscription. In fact, Minnesota’s most rural counties can have a percentage of households with an internet subscription that is 10 to 20 percentage points less than entirely urban areas.

The percentage of households who are subscribed to a broadband service decreases significantly as a county becomes more rural. In addition, the percentage of households relying on their cell phone data plan or dial-up connection increases with rural-ness. Data: U.S. Census Bureau, ACS 5-year (2013-2017).

What I find fascinating is the perentage (low as it is) of dial-up connectivity!

The article goes on to detail good works by local and national providers in improving access in Minnesota – a fleshed out version of what I’ve been tracking on the blog too – super helpful if you want to know exactly what folks are offering.

EVENT Mar 30: Human Services’ Calls with the Governor’s Office

The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits Reports

The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, in conjunction with the office of Governor Tim Walz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan, is pleased to host a series of four weekly Calls with Governor’s Office featuring updates for nonprofits on Minnesota’s response to COVID-19.
The Governor’s office values the state’s nonprofit partners and would like to easily give information as news is breaking in this changing environment. Each free virtual chat will take place over the next four Mondays from 11:30 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. and will feature Gov. Walz, Lt. Gov. Flanagan, or both.
The first call will focus on information for, and questions from, nonprofits in the human services sectors. Visit MCN’s event page in the coming weeks for information on future calls.

On the face of it, this isn’t necessarily broadband-related, unless of course you had questions about the inequity of broadband connectivity in rural areas impacting ability to access government services or adhere to sheltering in place executive order.