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District brings health care to staff

Sheryl Ellingson sits at the attendant’s station of the HealthSpot kiosk at Mayo Clinic Health System in Austin in October. The kiosk will allow patients to be treated for acute care via teleconferencing. The clinic and Austin Public Schools announced a partnership Monday. Herald file photo

Sheryl Ellingson sits at the attendant’s station of the HealthSpot kiosk at Mayo Clinic Health System in Austin in October. The kiosk will allow patients to be treated for acute care via teleconferencing. The clinic and Austin Public Schools announced a partnership Monday. Herald file photo

Austin schools, Mayo to partner on HealthSpot

Health care is changing at Austin Public Schools in hopes of creating easier access and cheaper doctor visits.

On Monday, the district announced a partnership with Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea and Austin that aims to make access to medical services easier through the use of Mayo Clinic Health Connection — a kiosk which allows patients to be treated for basic care via teleconference through the HealthSpot platform.

“We’ve been looking for years to try to help save costs with the health care,” Superintendent David Krenz said. “… We’re looking for options that we could do internally to help with that.”

The kiosk will allow district staff and their dependents to connect with Mayo Clinic and Mayo Clinic Health System providers through the private, walk-in kiosk that will provide high-definition videoconferencing and interactive, digital medical devices.

The district has been in discussions with Mayo Clinic for about a year, according to Krenz.

“This seemed to be the path that they were looking at and it fit our needs, so we kind of pursued this option and it really seems that at least it would work,” Krenz said.

Krenz said the program won’t cost more than current plans, but the district is hoping it will help decrease the cost of health care.

Clinical Operations Manager Melissa Barr demonstrates how an electronic stethoscope works in the HealthSpot kiosk at Mayo Clinic Health System in Austin in October as Operations Administrator Scott Ramsey listens from several rooms away. The kiosk, part Mayo Clinic Health Connection program, will allow patients to be treated for acute care via teleconferencing. Herald file photo

Clinical Operations Manager Melissa Barr demonstrates how an electronic stethoscope works in the HealthSpot kiosk at Mayo Clinic Health System in Austin in October as Operations Administrator Scott Ramsey listens from several rooms away. The kiosk, part Mayo Clinic Health Connection program, will allow patients to be treated for acute care via teleconferencing. Herald file photo

The kiosk will cost about $50 per use, compared to $100 or more to go in for an appointment.

The kiosks should be in by the first part of February. There will be one kiosk in Ellis Middle School and one or two at the former Home Health Care and Hospice building at 408 Fourth Ave. NW, Austin, which is one block from Austin High School. Organizers looked into two locations that would be easy access for all staff. The renovation cost to Ellis were about $30,000, but Krenz said that should be taken care of with the money saved by utilizing the kiosks.

The district is excited about the kiosks and hope they will be an asset to staff.

“Just the idea that another option for health care, and an opportunity to hopefully reduce health care cost to our employees and to the district,” Krenz said.

The kiosk will enable Mayo Clinic and Mayo Clinic Health System physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants to see and treat patients face-to-face in a variety of non-traditional health care settings.

Discussions are taking place to determine if any additional kiosks will be available and in what locations. Additional information on Mayo Clinic Health Connection will be provided to Austin Public School staff soon.

Austin Public School staff and their dependents can visit a kiosk without scheduling an appointment and be treated for minor, common health conditions, such as colds, earaches, sore throats, sinus infections, upper respiratory infections, rashes and skin conditions, and eye conditions. For anything more serious or and emergency situation, patients will still need to visit the doctor’s office.

Read more about the kiosks here.