Antibiotic stewardship at Tri-County

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Antibiotic stewardship is very important.


Antibiotics are a miracle that save millions of lives every year. However, the overuse of antibiotics can lead to antibiotic-resistant infections. Healthcare professionals need to be mindful of the use of these drugs at all times. Recently, Tri-County Health Care received gold-level recognition on the Minnesota Antibiotic Stewardship Acute Care and Critical Access Honor Roll. This program promotes appropriate antibiotic use initiatives designed to stop antimicrobial resistance.

The tiers

This distinct honor is for those safeguarding our communities through the intelligent application of antimicrobial stewardship. There are three levels of recognition for the honor roll. Bronze for commitment, silver for action, and gold represents collaboration. Gold-level hospitals also achieve the silver and bronze requirements. The Minnesota Department of Health compiles and awards the honor roll list annually.

How we won

An activity of special note for the organization is the use of an MRSA PCR-based nasal screening process that has led to a decrease in the use of vancomycin. This procedure has reduced the need for intense rounds of antibiotics, which is beneficial for the health system and the surrounding community. Also, the Antimicrobial Stewardship Team at Tri-County Health Care created employee and patient education materials containing important information to increase awareness and reduce antimicrobial resistance.

The physician leader for the project was Stephen Davis, MD, and the pharmacist leader was Michelle Hinojos, PharmD. The duo and the rest of the team were ecstatic to learn of the achievement. Previously Tri-County Health Care had achieved the bronze level on the honor roll.

Elements of stewardship

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are at least 2.8 million antibiotic-resistant infections each year in the US, and more than 35,000 people die as a result. Optimizing the use of antibiotics is a patient safety priority, and the Tri-County Health Care Antimicrobial Stewardship Program plays a critical role in supporting appropriate antibiotic prescribing practices and reducing antibiotic resistance locally. The CDC breaks down antibiotic stewardship into several core elements:

Antibiotic stewardship is a group effort.

  • Hospital leadership
  • Accountability
  • Pharmacy expertise
  • Action
  • Tracking
  • Reporting
  • Education

For more information about infection control, please visit and follow Tri-County Health Care on social media.

A letter from Dr. Swartz: Interns and surgery

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In this letter from Dr. Swartz, he discusses his career pathway. Providers at Tri-County Health Care are encouraged to share their thoughts and feelings on topical news and happening around the health system.

Reflecting on a special visit

We had the pleasure of hosting several student interns at Tri-County Health Care throughout July. It’s always encouraging to meet young people interested in a profession that puts empathy first. We even had the chance to introduce these students to some of the things we do to prepare for surgery. Their enthusiasm for our work was very refreshing.

I believe experiences like this go beyond just being a fun excursion. They shape a person and guide them to their true calling. I’ve been thinking about my work and contemplating on why I became a surgeon. I’ve always been a very detail-orientated person that isn’t afraid to investigate the fine details of a problem. However, it does take more than an analytical brain to be a successful surgeon. As I stated earlier, empathy must come first. To be an effective surgeon, you have to treat everyone on your operating table as if they were family. Their life is in your hands, and they trust you. If any of the students that pass through our department go on to become surgeons, please don’t abuse that trust.

Their life is in your hands

In this letter from Dr. Swartz he discusses the importance of empathy.

Travis Swartz, DO

When a person heads to surgery, they are likely experiencing a hurricane of emotions. Also, people forget the human element of this work and look at everything as a procedure. Remember the person behind the procedure, their fears, and their loved ones. Being a surgeon is more than just stainless steel and scalpels.

I would like to thank all of the students that made their way through Tri-County Health Care. I hope shadowing our staff gave you some direction in your future endeavors.

All the best,

Travis Swartz, DO

Tri-County Health Care

Tri-County Health Care would like to offer thanks for this wonderful letter from Dr. Swartz. We hope his insight may guide young people in their future endeavors. Tri-County Health Care routinely welcomes student interns to tour our respective facilities while gaining valuable insight from our collection of medical, clerical, business, and marketing professionals.  In conclusion, if you are interested in interning or shadowing at Tri-County Health Care, please check our careers page.

What’s up with Wesley?

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What’s up with Wesley? With less than a year away from the grand opening of the new Astera Health Campus, many are wondering what will happen to the current facilities. No worries about demolition! Tri-County Health Care has no plans to destroy these iconic buildings that have been in Wadena for decades. The organization aims to find a way to utilize them to their fullest potential as the organization shifts to its new home just miles outside of Wadena.

When is the move?

Medical providers and staff, along with their equipment, will be making a big move in the Spring of 2023. This move is a multi-tiered process that requires all hands on deck. From maintenance to schedulers, everyone needs to be at the ready to move necessary equipment to the new site while allowing time to acclimate. As of now, the organization plans to hold off on moving staff stationed in the Wesley building to the current hospital/clinic for around six months. This buffer period will allow site engineers and maintenance to make it space for the support specialists to help the new building operate efficiently.

What's up with Wesley? A new purpose

It has been stated several times that the Wesley Building will not be left to decay. Additionally, it holds generations of historical value in addition to being a potentially viable commercial space. For now, Tri-County Health Care will continue to use the lower floor for laundry and other building support services. The garage in the back of the building will continue to be a hub for EMS personnel. Lastly, the third floor will be used for medical record storage.

That leaves the first and second floors. These two floors come with a whirlwind of possibilities. The office space is ideal for various clerical, sales, and front-end operations. A tentative plan is to start leasing these areas to local and regional businesses. Tri-County Health Care has always placed a high value on economic stimulation. A healthy community promotes industry, and being able to provide a space for that industry would be a strong point of pride.

Other options

Commercial offices are a great way to go, but that isn’t the only course of action considered. The organization has expressed some interest in selling the property. Some have cited the historical importance of the building, claiming it might be a good home for the Historical Society in Wadena. A direct sale will continue to be an option in the future.

What do you think?

We need help from our communities in Wadena and the surrounding areas. If the price was no object and you had infinite resources, what would you do with the Wesley building? How would you make this structure useful to the people of Wadena? Let us know in the comments section below or on our social media pages.

If you’re interested or know someone who would like to lease or buy space at Wesley, please email Ryan Damlo at or call 218-632-8148.

Understanding your bill: Our top five tips

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Challenge yourself to make healthcare less of a chore in 2022. The world of insurance claims may seem painfully boring but being aware of the process can make visits to the clinic less of a headache. So here are our top five tips for understanding your bill.

  1. Insurance

The billing department’s issues usually stem from insurance confusion. There are many insurance plans with different levels of coverage and individual deductibles. Getting to your appointment and dealing with the bill goes much smoother when the patient understands their basic coverage. Additionally, billing specialists at Tri-County Health Care highly recommend meeting with an HR professional at your place of employment or simply visiting your insurance’s website. Plan information should be accessible by making an account.

  1. Deductibles

Deductibles are a pivotal point of most insurance plans. A deductible refers to the out-of-pocket expense the policyholder is responsible for paying before the insurance company will provide payment assistance. Many billing issues start with the deductible. Deductible information is found on your insurance information or accessed via a website account.

Watch this video for more information about deductibles and payment.

  1. Timelines

Unfortunately, most things in life take some time, including insurance claims. Many insurance companies require up to 14 days of processing time. Anticipate this while seeking care or the bill.

  1. The value of approval

Avoid the disappointment of insurance denial and consider getting preapproved by your insurance company. No claim gains guaranteed approval, so calling ahead is effective. There are certain loopholes insurance companies will use to avoid paying out, so if you find yourself in a unique situation, it never hurts to ask first.

  1. Limitations of occupation

It’s important to understand that nurses and doctors focus on healing, not necessarily your bill. From sheer proximity, these individuals do have a good working knowledge of insurance and billing but ultimately that is not their job. At Tri-County Health Care, the claims and billing department works extensively with providers on coverage information from patient to patient. We do this so the patient can receive the best possible care without breaking the bank.

Bonus Tip: keep your insurance card handyAn insurance card is a very important part of receiving care efficiently.

Many insurance and billing issues can be avoided by simply keeping an up-to-date insurance card handy. This sounds easy enough but thousands continue to lose track of this essential piece of plastic. This card allows patient access representatives to help you more efficiently throughout your visit. An insurance card provides the easiest and quickest way to detect plan changes.

Tri-County Health Care has several teams ready to help with any billing or claims needs if you have questions that you can’t find online, feel free to call us at 218-631-3510.

Flu and masks

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Healthcare systems across the country have been battling COVID-19 for nearly two years. Face coverings are proven to be one one of the most important tools in keeping this virus at bay. Cloth masks are a popular infection control method worldwide, but they are a new prevention strategy in American life. Although they have become controversial, it is undeniable they slow the spread of COVID-19 and the flu. The flu and masks should be a common association.

Please take a few minutes to watch this PBS program on the importance of masks.

The impact

It seems like every year, thousands of people contract the dreaded flu. This terrible illness has become a part of our seasonal culture. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention estimated that 28,000 people died from influenza from 2018 to 2019 in the United States. From 2017 to 2018, an estimated 52,000 people died in our country alone. Every year thousands meet an untimely death from this virus. Data trends and studies on the effectiveness of masks have some wondering if they should be worn more often.

Masks aren’t about necessarily protecting ourselves. They are about protecting others from contaminated droplets. Wearing a mask during the flu season might be the best way to protect our communities.

Infection prevention

Cheryl Houselog is Tri-County Health Care’s infection preventionist. She has the duty of stopping the spread of contagions. For the last two years, she has worked non-stop to provide safe working environments for the staff and patients of Tri-County Health Care. When asked what she felt was the best way to prevent the spread of the flu, she quickly stated the importance of respiratory hygiene. To her, a cloth mask is one of the most important barriers between you and sickness. Cheryl doesn’t think you need to constantly wear a mask but choosing to wear one in certain situations makes sense. When you plan to be around several different people, wearing a mask, especially during the flu season, can be a very wise decision.

“The fact that we did not see a lot of colds or influenza last year indicates that masking helps prevent transmission of many respiratory diseases,” – Cheryl Houselog

Masking is more important than ever! They may not be convenient or fashionable, but they can save lives. Data from the Influenza Surveillance Network has been included below. If you compare rates of influenza in the State of Minnesota, it is clear that mitigation efforts were having a strong impact on the spread of the flu and other respiratory illnesses. This winter, make sure you’re protected from the flu by wearing your masks and getting your flu shot.

Flu and Masks statistics.

Doctor’s Day 2021: Thank your provider!

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National Doctor’s Day is a time to honor the millions of healthcare providers standing between us and illness. It’s easy to let observances pass by without a singular moment of reflection but this year we should all turn our attention to the doctors that have taken a stand for our collective health. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, hundreds of healthcare workers have perished. Every day they go to work not knowing if they will be infected with a potentially deadly respiratory disease.

Use this time to honor doctors and other medical staff still battling COVID-19. Some of Tri-County Health Care’s providers took this time to reflect on their careers.

Physician Provider Doctor Tri-County Health Care Dr. Heidi Olson Doctor's Day

Heidi Olson, M.D.

Heidi Olson: Science and superior care

Why did you choose your career path?

“I love science, the human body, and having a connection with others.”

What have you learned in the last year of practicing medicine during a pandemic?

“As healthcare providers, we need to have a little grace with ourselves and others. Forgiveness is so important right now. There are a lot of hard times in life and beating up on ourselves and others is not the answer.”

Do you have any advice for someone interested in becoming a doctor?

“Follow your passions, there are so many unique areas and facets of medicine. For example, I love wilderness medicine and how it pertains to my outdoor hobbies. In my clinical practice, I enjoy focusing on wellness and quality of life, as well as palliative care in my end-of-life patients.”

Physician Provider Doctor Tri-County Health Care Dr. Shaneen Schmidt Doctor's Day

Dr. Schmidt with her patients, Alyssa and Fiana

Shaneen Schmidt: Patience

For National Doctor’s Day, people are curious, why did you go into medicine?

“I chose to be a physician because I wanted to be instrumental in improving the life and health of others. Particularly, I like being able to put the various social aspects together when taking care of a family. Understanding that a mother’s health or their child’s health affects how they take care of themselves.”

What has the pandemic taught you?

I had to learn how to increase my flexibility and patience. The state of the virus is always changing and I had to learn patience in trying to explain a novel virus that we are constantly researching. I’ve also had to learn to accept that some people may not acknowledge or appreciate my expertise.”

Any advice for newbies entering the field?

“I would recommend they focus extensively on classwork, training and the perseverance that it takes to get through eight years of education plus the several years of specialized training. If you can get through that, a very rewarding career awaits you.”

Physician Provider Doctor Tri-County Health Care Dr. David Kloss Doctor's Day

David Kloss, M.D.

David Kloss: Work with your team!

Why did you become a surgeon? ​

“I love interacting with people and their families and I’ve always had a knack for taking things apart, figuring out what was wrong, and putting them back together. I ​enjoy the changing routine and challenges of being a surgeon.”

What is the important takeaway from this pandemic? 

“People are resilient and we can get through anything if we stick together.”

Do you have any advice for surgeons in training? 

“Work hard and play hard! It is important to study, apply yourself, but also make time for fun to avoid burnout. Medicine is a very long marathon race. You have to pace yourself to make it all the way through. Eat healthy, get some exercise, and take a vacation with your family.”

Share with me a time when your knowledge of medicine changed someone’s life for the better.

“A doctor called me about a 60-year-old gentleman with sudden severe back and abdominal pain. He was sweating profusely. Not in shock but his heart rate was elevated. I made the diagnosis over the phone of a rupturing aortic aneurysm. I ordered an emergent CAT scan over the phone and met him in the ER. From there, we expedited his resuscitation and transferred him to a surgeon at a facility that could perform an aortic stent graft. He had a rupturing iliac artery aneurysm (a rare and very difficult issue, even more difficult to treat). By expediting the CT scan along with his resuscitation and communicating directly with the specialist, I saved his life.  It is not always yourself doing the surgery, but it can be the simple little things that save a life. That’s what makes medicine the greatest career.”

Physician Provider Doctor Tri-County Health Care Dr. Ben Hess Doctor's Day

Ben Hess, M.D.

Ben Hess: Trust is a valuable resource

What led you to this profession?

“I love challenges. I enjoy solving complicated puzzles and I wanted to do something that would help my community.”

What insight have you gained from the pandemic?

“As complex and cumbersome as medicine is normally, in a crisis, we can act decisively and quickly. The public trust is a precious resource we should never squander.”

On National Doctor’s Day, do you have any advice for students?

“Take the hardest classes from the best teachers, regardless of the subject. Everything you learn will help in medicine whether it is science, math, or even art because they all make you a more well-rounded person which can help you connect better to people.”

Laura DuChene: Small town, big heart

Why did you want to become a physician? 

“I’ve wanted to be a physician for as long as I can remember. I grew up in a small town in central Minnesota. We had a family physician and he always went above and beyond. I decided when I became a doctor, I wanted to be just like him. I knew I wanted to raise my children in a small town where I could be like him, and that led me to Tri-County Health Care.”

What’s the best part of being a doctor?

“I love getting to know the families and watching them grow and change. There is nothing more rewarding than delivering a baby and watching that patient become a parent for the first time.”

Has the pandemic shown you anything special?

“We are a strong community and we have a fantastic family of medical providers. Many people have come together to make our community safe and I couldn’t be prouder to live and work here.”

For National Doctor’s Day, please reach out to your provider and let them know how they have impacted your life for the better. Please follow Tri-County Health Care on social media for regular updates. To schedule an appointment with one of our providers, please call 218-631-3510.

Physician Provider Doctor Tri-County Health Care Dr. Laura DuChene Doctor's Day

Dr. DuChene with her patient, Amanda.

COVID-19 Requires Unified Response

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We have reached a serious and critical point in our efforts to battle COVID-19. COVID-19 requires a unified response now. This virus is not only affecting those overseas or in densely populated areas; it has made its way to rural central Minnesota and is currently spreading quickly right here in our own backyard. Cases of COVID-19 have surged in recent weeks. The trajectory of these cases is predicted to increase throughout the holiday season.Tri-County Health Care COVID Todd County Wadena County Health Partners Germs Hand Hygiene

Healthcare facilities and their respective staff have watched as larger regional hospitals within the state have been overrun. Bed space has been depleted; there is no more room. That means COVID-positive individuals that may have otherwise been transferred to a larger hospital must seek care locally, increasing the strain on our local hospitals which are also near capacity. If this trend continues, this crisis will quickly increase and affect our ability to provide care to those who need it. People who could have been saved may succumb to COVID-19.

As the holidays draw near, healthcare leaders in the area have come together to plead that you celebrate responsibly this holiday season. These gatherings can be a significant source of spread and risk the lives of family members and friends. It may not be easy, but we ask you please try to find safe alternatives to these gatherings. Stay home. Call your loved ones or use video chat to communicate.

Fighting this virus requires a unified front, not just from hospitals but from every single individual. Everyone needs to practice physical distancing, wash your hands regularly, only leave home when absolutely necessary and wear a mask when in public.

COVID-19 is not a hoax or conspiracy. It is a very real virus affecting us all. The recent COVID-19 surge requires unified response. Please take this message seriously. For us to return to normal life as soon as possible, it must be earned with great effort and genuine care for others.

Thank you and stay well,

Daniel J Swenson
Administrator, CentraCare – Long Prairie

Joel Beiswenger
President & CEO, Tri-County Health Care

Tim Rice
President & CEO, Lakewood Health System

Jackie Och
Director, Todd County Health & Human Services

Cindy Pederson
Director, Wadena County Public Health