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Essentia Health partners with virtuwell to address ailments cost-effectively

Essentia Health is encouraging its employees and patients to consider a new online option called virtuwell when seeking treatment for everyday illnesses. Launched in 2010 by HealthPartners, virtuwell is an online convenient care service where for $45, patients can be diagnosed and treated for more than 40 common health concerns.

“As an Accountable Care Organization, Essentia is committed to offering our patients high quality care in the most convenient and cost-effective ways possible,” says John Smylie, Essentia’s Chief Operating Officer. “Sometimes that requires a visit to their primary care physician, a specialist or even a trip to an emergency department. But other times, an online visit to virtuwell may be the fastest and most affordable option.”

While Essentia is endorsing the use of virtuwell — virtuwell is also endorsing the use of Essentia. If a patient begins an online visit at and his/her symptoms or medical history suggest that online care is not appropriate, the patient is offered free access to a complete list of local doctor’s offices, urgent care clinics or emergency rooms, as appropriate for the condition. The list begins with Essentia facilities, and patients who choose to receive their follow-up care from Essentia can request the virtuwell visit be automatically documented in their Essentia medical record.

“We’re pleased to work with a leading health system like Essentia that delivers high quality care,” says Kevin Palattao, vice president of virtuwell and HealthPartners. “By working together, we can improve health outcomes and lower the cost of care while delivering an exceptional experience.”

To date, more than 85,000 treatment plans have been provided to consumers who have consulted with virtuwell for simple conditions such as sinus infections, pink eye and more. There is no waiting as consumers answer a series of simple online questions about their symptoms and medical history. The questions are similar to those asked in an office visit and are designed with safety and accuracy in mind. Board certified nurse practitioners review each case and complete treatment plans, including prescriptions if appropriate.

Smylie says the decision to collaborate with HealthPartners on endorsing virtuwell was influenced by the fact that service uses evidence-based protocols, receives high patient satisfaction ratings, and is available in Essentia’s entire service area.

“We’ve enjoyed a strong working relationship with HeathPartners as they administer our employee health insurance plan,” says Smylie. “We are excited about this new opportunity to work together for the benefit of our patients.”

virtuwell is operating in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and North Dakota, with further state expansion planned in 2014. Palattao added, “As virtuwell continues to grow, we will continue to seek affiliate relationships with organizations like Essentia that share our mission of providing affordable, effective care and the best possible experience.”