La Crosse health systems encourage patients to get comfortable with telehealth

COVID-19 has forced a lot of business to do things differently.  Specifically, health care systems have moved a lot of appointments online. Telehealth has increased in the past few months. In April, telehealth appointments skyrocketed at La Crosse health systems.

“We saw a lot of patients not willing to come in at all, even though they had very complicated conditions,” said Tanner Holst, Vice Chair of Administration at Mayo Clinic Health System.

“It was definitely an option, but not as accessible or prevalent as it is today,” said Lisa Hayes, Family Medicine Resident at Gundersen Health System.

The La Crosse health systems kicked telehealth into high gear over the last few months. Mayo Clinic officials say at their peak in April, they serviced over 1,300 patients per week virtually.

“The video visits really allowed us to stay very connected with those patients and assure the level of care that they need,” said Holst.

Danielle George just recently started using telehealth services at Gundersen. She says she doesn’t really have concerns about security with the virtual visits.

“The things that we talk about are just general things that aren’t things that I’m super concerned about right now so we can have those conversations,” said George.

George said that the telehealth system makes getting the care she needs easier.

“They can set up appointments for me, and then it gives me the availability and flexibility to take care of those things we talk about at my convenience,” said George.

Health officials worry patients don’t realize their appointments can be done virtually, and will risk not seeing a doctor to avoid going to clinics and hospitals.

“They’re talking about the COVID second wave, but they’re also talking about a second wave due to a delay in health care,” said Holst.

Leaders at both medical centers say they don’t see this trend of telehealth slowing down anytime soon…. even past the pandemic. According to Gundersen Health System officials, its goal is to have 40-50% of primary care appointments done via telehealth.