Skip to main content

Safe Care Commitment Podcast Transcript


Our new normal has been intense. We locked down, we distanced, we canceled everything. But as this pandemic continues, it's time we look toward our next normal. At Allina Health Aetna, we believe this means finding ways to safely co-exist with COVID. I'm Tom Lindquist, and today I'm going to talk to Dr. Penny Wheeler about safe care. So, first, Dr. Wheeler, I'll let you introduce yourself.

Yeah. Well, thanks, Tom. It's good to talk to you. I'm a physician by background, obstetrician-gynecologist. I now have the great fortune of being the CEO and president of the organization of which I practiced as a physician, which is Allina Health.

Thanks, Penny. So, you and I have discussed the fact that many people have been avoiding doctor office visits during this pandemic, so let's talk about patient options for telehealth and virtual care. First, what kind of virtual care does Allina Health currently offer?

Yeah, well we have a few different platforms. First of all, we can guide people to what they need. They visit us online, but we have telemedicine capabilities where you're actually seeing a video of the physician interacting with you. We have telephone capabilities too as another means. And when it's needed, you know, we make sure that in-person care is as safe as possibly done. We want to make sure that people get the care they need now and not avoid needing care for certain.

So, a lot of people have been curious about what a typical visit would look like. How would you describe that?

Yeah, well a typical visit on online, it really looks much like the interview we're having here today, Tom. So, it's really changed the character of things, making care more accessible, more convenient, and more safe when that is the right level of care to get, and in-person care is not needed.

That's fascinating. So, with those visits becoming more common, I'm interested in your thoughts about the future of virtual care, in general?

Yeah. I do think that the convenience factor and the accessibility factor cannot be denied, and we want to move care as close to home as possible. That's our goal. We – I had one gentleman tell me this week that he saved four hours of travel. He was in Greater Minnesota, saved four hours of travel because he could get his care virtually. And he felt very, very satisfied. The satisfaction rates of these virtual care visits is very high. That's the kind of care you want to provide, that's true to our mission of exceptional care.

So, shifting gears just a little bit, let's talk about in-person visits and some of the changes that Allina has made to ensure that those visits are safe. So, we know that some people have been delaying and avoiding care. What long-term effect could that have on them?

Sadly, Tom, we're starting to see more complications that are indicative that people are avoiding care. I understand with the uncertainty that people might worry about safety but we have very safe care practices and it gets to be the bigger concern is avoiding needed care. So, for example, we're finding more diabetics who are coming into their emergency room with diabetic ketoacidosis or kind of coma symptoms, or people who have had more advanced heart disease than need be if they were attended to. So, we are seeing these complications that we haven't seen quite frankly for a while. And that's why it's important to know that if in-person care is needed, please – and you're having symptoms, please access it. We have several, several safe care practices that we've implemented to make sure that it's safe.

So, what are the differences that patients will notice when they visit one of Allina's clinics or hospitals?

Yeah, some of the things you'll notice is things you're noticing all over, right. Social distancing, everybody wearing a mask, but in addition to that, we have everybody – every visitor, every patient, every employee is screened for any symptoms. We separate respiratory symptoms from non-respiratory symptoms in our clinics to separate the patient populations. We have, you know, the ultimate cleanliness standards there. We don't have people congregate in places. We do some of the care that doesn't have to be hands-on, like interviews, you know, virtually. And then, have your care team come in with all the personal protective equipment needed both for you and for them, to ensure your safety. 

That's great. So, with all of this, how has COVID-19 affected the relationships that patients have with their physicians?

Well, it's interesting. You know, I think in, in some way, shape, or form, we realize more than ever how precious that relationship is between a caregiver and an individual as our community struggles with not only, you know, whatever health burdens have been traditionally but now with this virus in addition. So, the reliance and the relationship with the healthcare provider is at its peak. At the same time, you know, it's changed things in that we have to wear certain protective equipment, you know, that would sometimes cause a physical separation, but the caring shows through. So, we want to make sure that people are safe, and the compassionate care is always there. And I think that a lot of people who work in our organization are feeling like, you know, this is a time when the community needs them most and they feel grateful to be there for the people they are serving. 

Yeah, that's right. So, one last question. What is your best advice for co-existing with COVID-19?

Yeah. Well, I think that the first advice just on the healthcare aspect would be, you know, know that there are safe practices available, know that there are different channels for which you could get care. So, just access care when you need it. We'll help guide you to the right level of care that's needed and you can be assured that it's safe. I think on a personal level, I think we're dealing with this, just like everybody is. We're using [sic] a difficult circumstance hopefully for a way grow and get better. 

That's great. Thank you, I appreciate your time and all of your thoughts.

Oh, really appreciate your work too, Tom. Thank you.

Effective solutions that fit a variety of needs

Our health coverage solutions bring together local expertise with the experience of a leading national insurance brand. We provide plans that deliver the services members value with the type of cost clarity that gives peace of mind.

Contact us

Allina Health Aetna Logo Allina Health Aetna Logo

Legal Notices: Health benefits and health insurance plans contain exclusions and limitations.

Health benefits and health plans are offered, underwritten or administered by Allina Health and Aetna Insurance Company (Allina Health | Aetna).  Allina Health l Aetna is an affiliate of Aetna Life Insurance Company and its affiliates (Aetna).  Allina Health | Aetna has sole responsibility for its products and services. Aetna provides certain management services to Allina Health | Aetna. Aetna and MinuteClinic, LLC (which either operates or provides certain management support services to MinuteClinic-branded walk-in clinics) are both within the CVS Health family.

Allina Health | Aetna is the brand name used for products and services provided by Allina Health and Aetna Insurance Company.

This material is for information only and is not an offer or invitation to contract. Health benefit plans contain exclusions and limitations. Providers are independent contractors and not our agents. Provider participation may change without notice. We do not provide care or guarantee access to health services. Not all health services are covered. See plan documents for a complete description of benefits, exclusions, limitations and conditions of coverage. Plan features and availability are subject to change and may vary by location. If you are in a plan that requires the selection of a primary care physician and your primary care physician is part of an integrated delivery system or physician group, your primary care physician will generally refer you to specialists and hospitals that are part of the delivery system or physician group. Information is believed to be accurate as of the production date; however, it is subject to change.

*Applies only to covered services at MinuteClinic. Members in indemnity plans are not eligible for this benefit. Such members should refer to their benefit plan documents in order to determine coverage and applicable cost share for walk-in clinic benefits and services, as applicable. Visit for age and service restrictions. Eligible members enrolled in qualified high-deductible plans must meet their deductible. However, such services would be subject to negotiated contract rates. Once the deductible has been met, members will be able to access MinuteClinic services at no cost share. Aetna and MinuteClinic, LLC (which either operates or provides certain management support services to MinuteClinic-branded walk-in clinics) are both within the CVS Health family. Aetna is not responsible for services received at MinuteClinic locations. 98point6 and 98point6 physicians are independent contractors and are neither agents nor employees of Allina Health | Aetna or plans administered by Allina Health | Aetna and does not guarantee that a prescription will be written.

Language Assistance Language Assistance can be provided by calling the number on your member ID Card. For additional language assistance: Español | 中文 | Tiếng Việt | 한국어 | Tagalog | Pусский | العربية | Kreyòl | Français | Polski | Português | Italiano | Deutsch | 日本語 | فارسی | Other Languages…