Two members of the patient access team welcome people to the front desk of Gillette.

Please note: Some photos were taken before COVID-19 restrictions.

At Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare we know over the past few weeks some of our families might have experienced some extra challenges scheduling appointments with our providers.  

We hear you. We want to share what brought on these circumstances and to assure you we’re working to improve the situation.

An order from Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz in March 2020 required healthcare providers throughout the state to postpone all nonessential or elective procedures to conserve needed medical supplies and to help curb the spread of COVID-19.

Patient Access Manager Brittany Carlson“As an organization Gillette had to quickly pivot to accommodate the governor’s order and to ensure the needs of our patients were met in a manner that did not sacrifice quality of care and maintained safety,” says Brittany Carlson, Gillette Senior Patient Access Manager. “Since March the patient access team has scheduled more than 175,000 appointments,” Carlson adds. “This includes in-person visits and virtual care appointments.”

Because Gillette was not allowed to see patients for routine care for a number of weeks during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s understandable that appointments started to pile up. This pent up demand has led to an unprecedented number of calls to our patient access team to schedule and reschedule appointments. “Right now we’re averaging about 4,000 to 5,000 calls per week,” Carlson says. “Prior to the pandemic, that volume was consistently less than 3,500 calls per week.

A patient access team photo

The Gillette patient access team takes pride in helping patient families as they schedule care.

While the volume of calls has increased the patient access team is also finding new ways to work and keep safe from COVID-19. “Our team has shown a great deal of resilience as they work from home or work from our call center while adjusting to new COVID-19 safety measures,” Carlson says. “Our patient access team members are eager to serve our Gillette families and have done their best in very unusual circumstances.”

Providers are working with the patient access team and support staff to make sure the needs of all patients are being met. This has often meant doctors, nurses and therapists working longer hours with fully scheduled days.

Gillette’s medical director, Micah Niermann, MD, says it’s important for Gillette patients to get the care they need during the COVID-19 pandemic. He says he’s proud of how the Gillette staff and patient families are making sure the health needs of children are being met. “Community and staff joining together is one of the hallmarks of Gillette,” Niermann observes. “You see it no matter the role someone has. We’re all pulling for the same mission. We’re all focused on making sure our kids get exceptional care even during very challenging times.”

“There is a bit of a silver lining to the COVID-19 cloud,” Carlson suggests. “This is an unexpected opportunity to step back and evaluate our scheduling model and to thoughtfully plan provider schedules to improve access and the coordination of services. We’re also in the process of hiring more patient access team members so that should help families with scheduling.”

The patient access team enjoys participating in Gillette "Fun Days." On this day the team is supporting the care Gillettte provides for patients who have cerebral palsy by wearing "We See CP" t-shirts. 

Gillette has also expanded virtual care options for families. Virtual care appointments are especially useful for families who live outside of the Twin Cities metro area.

Gillette sleep medicine physician, John Garcia, MD says he has a 100% success rate when it comes to parents showing up for virtual care appointments. “Parents find it is convenient and they can pick a time that works best for their family,” Garcia says.

“Another benefit is parents don’t have to worry about getting child care for other children or have a concern about venturing outside the home during this time,” Garcia adds.

Gillette pediatric neurologist, Randal Richardson, MD, says he also enjoys virtual care visits. “One of the things that has been a pleasant surprise is how much more talkative my patients (including children) are in their home environment,” Richardson says.

Gillette is expanding its in-person appointment options too by opening a clinic in Maple Grove the fall. It’s hoped this additional space will expand the opportunities for appointments and care. This location should be especially convenient for families in the Twin Cities west metro area.  

“The main message we want to share with families,” Carlson says, “is we are actively working to improve the scheduling situation for our families.”

“We know the care at Gillette is needed and special,” Carlson adds. “The past few months have undoubtedly been a difficult time for everyone. We appreciate people’s patience and look forward to navigating a ‘new normal’ together.”

To make an appointment at Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare please call: 651-290-8707.

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