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Gillette Increasing Access to Care in Greater Minnesota for Children with Rare, Complex Conditions

January 26, 2022

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Learning rehab techniques at home may improve results for some families.

To protect vulnerable children from exposure to COVID in the community and knowing that children and their families are traveling long distances to access specialized care and treatment, Gillette Children’s is growing and expanding access to virtual visits and virtual rehabilitation services as well as increasing access to providers at its Greater Minnesota Clinics in 2022. Gillette specializes in brain, bone and movement conditions. 

To serve Greater Minnesota, Gillette has clinics in Alexandra, Baxter/Brainerd, Bemidji, Duluth, Mankato, St. Cloud and Willmar.  

“We know that our patients are traveling long distances to see our providers,” said Andrea Paulson, MD, a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist and Gillette’s associate medical director for Greater Minnesota. Based at the Gillette clinic in Alexandria, Paulson was named to this newly created role to connect Gillette services to families living in rural areas of the region.  

Gillette’s patients come from every county in Minnesota as well as neighboring states. “We know that virtual care is beneficial to our families and patients,” said Paulson. “It’s convenient, reducing long trips or finding care for other children in a family, taking parents away from work and children out of school. It’s safe and reduces risks associated with travel, bad weather and exposure to COVID.”  

The pandemic, of course, meant that all providers quickly pivoted to seeing patients virtually. In fact, all Gillette providers launched the ability to see kids virtually one week after Minnesota’s shutdown in March 2020, Paulson said. “The virtual rehab therapy program was launched as COVID-19 started to help keep our patients on track with their goals while keeping them safer at home.”

In 2021, Gillette served 4,107 unique patients in 11,562 virtual visits, including 3,371 rehabilitation virtual visits. Gillette also served patients virtually from more than 17 other states and 3 countries. 

The Gillette rehab therapy team includes more than 100 therapists across physical, occupational and speech services. They have specialized and advanced training focused on pediatrics and complex conditions and tailor the therapy to a child’s needs and ensure the sessions work well for a family at home via smart phone, tablet or computer.  

In addition, in 2022, Gillette is expanding access to health care providers in all clinic locations throughout Greater Minnesota.  

“It’s critical that all children have access to the expert specialty care they need to be able to grow, thrive and achieve all they can,” said Paulson. “Having experts locally improves communication and collaboration with local physicians and providers. It also strengthens the awareness and knowledge about complex, rare and traumatic conditions.” 

“Therapy for a new diagnosis or rehab after a surgery or an injury lasts many months, up to a year and beyond,” said Tori Bahr, MD, associate medical director of pediatrics, and native of the Baxter/Brainerd area. “I’ve heard from many families who are pleased with virtual rehab. I’ve had families say they've really liked doing virtual therapy because they feel like it's easier to implement the therapy into their day-to-day life in a way that it wasn't before.” 

“It can be challenging to transport a child who has a disability or other physical needs,” Bahr added. “It’s important to make sure that kids can get the services they need without having to travel far and without putting an extra burden on a family,” 

Gillette Children’s is one of a few pediatric specialty programs in Minnesota accredited by the Commission on the Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) to meet the needs of young children and adolescents seeking acute inpatient rehabilitation. Gillette is one of less than 10 U.S. pediatric inpatient rehabilitation facilities to have CARF accreditation for both pediatric specialty and pediatric brain injury programs. Its virtual rehab program was recognized by the International Hospital Federation and World Health Organization (WHO).

Learn more about virtual rehab and providers.


Dr. Tori Bahr, Associate Medical Director of Pediatrics, is a native of the Brainerd area, sees patients in Baxter and is available for interviews about access to care in Greater Minnesota. 

Dr. Andrea Paulson, Associate Medical Director of Greater Minnesota, sees patients in Alexandria, Baxter and Willmar, and is available for interviews about access to care in Greater Minnesota.