MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota hospitals and clinics continue to find new, creative ways to protect health care workers and patients, while preserving personal protective equipment.

Allina Health is now taking a virtual approach to limit exposure to COVID-19. On a mostly deserted floor in an Allina Health building, you’ll find a “sea of stands.” Tom Bethke believes each one of these will play a role in fighting COVID-19.

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“The initial reports are that it’s useful, it’s easy to use,” Tom Bethke, of Allina Health, said.

The stands hold Android tablets. They are in about 100 emergency rooms right now, and eventually they could be in more than 600 rooms across the Allina Health system.

They got the idea just two weeks ago when doctors and nurses were looking for ways to cut down on room visits and save masks, gloves and gowns, all while staying close to patients. A half-hour visit on a tablet could greatly reduce risk.

“Start doing the math and it adds up very quickly every day. That’s protecting our staff, doctors and patients as well,” Brad Myrvold, of Allina Health, said.

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Doctors and nurses work in a kiosk on each floor where the online rooms are located. When the provider logs in to a room number, they can virtually talk face to face.

“We can deploy this widely, so if there is a sudden surge in demand for beds and PPE, this should help a lot in reducing the usage a lot,” Bethke said.

Volunteers helped put the tablet stands together, turning conference rooms into little factories, and doing months’ worth of work in less than two weeks.

“When you see what the people in the emergency departments are facing, people want to help and they volunteer immediately,” Bethke said.

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Allina says they hope to eventually put tablets in all hospital rooms.

John Lauritsen