Hennepin Healthcare’s Digital Equity Xperts (DEX) program connects patients with technology and their healthcare

For patients who have limited access to digital technology, signing on to their patient record can be a challenge – if not altogether impossible.

“Not everyone has a cellphone – or even access to the internet,” explains Dr. Ryan Jelinek, Medical Director for Telehealth and Patient Access at Hennepin Healthcare, who created the Digital Equity Xpert program where patients are connected with digital navigators to help train and educate them about online tools to better access their healthcare resources – most importantly, their electronic health records.

“Digital literacy to improve the health and wellbeing of our communities is a priority within our healthcare system. Just getting to that place often identifies inequities like lack of device access, or poor broadband or cellular connectivity. Regardless of access to technology, there may be limited digital literacy, that impedes a patient’s ability to use these tools. Our goal is to have patients feel comfortable in accessing the resources they need and feel included in their care.”

More than 800 patients have been helped by the DEX program since it began in March 2022 to address the gaps in digital access by providing at-the-elbow support to patients who may need extra assistance. While much of the support provided is related to healthcare tools like the patient’s electronic health record, the scope of support extends far beyond that to things like helping set up an email address or referring them to county programs that may be able to assist with hardware and broadband solutions at little or no cost.

How does it work?

Like the Talent Garden and other community-focused initiatives at Hennepin Healthcare, the Digital Equity Xperts program has a dual focus on diversity and equity for both the Hennepin Healthcare team and more broadly in their communities.

Through a partnership with Teen HOPE, Hennepin Healthcare provides training and workplace opportunities to interns in the DEX program to fast-track them to careers in healthcare. Through these internships, they gain experience working within a healthcare setting toward their career goals, meeting patients at the bedside or at clinic appointments to provide education.

“It’s a win-win program for everyone,” said Dr. Jelinek. “The patients are more involved in their healthcare experience and choices, the DEX intern gains experience toward their career goals, and Hennepin Healthcare benefits from having a more involved patient, and potentially another colleague considering a rewarding healthcare career.”

Hennepin Healthcare is a nationally recognized system of care that includes HCMC, a Level I Adult Trauma Center and Level 1 Pediatric Trauma Center with the largest emergency department in Minnesota. The comprehensive academic medical center and public teaching hospital includes a 484-bed acute care hospital as well as primary care and specialty clinics located in downtown Minneapolis its surrounding communities.

Summer Talent Garden interns celebrate experience at Hennepin Healthcare

A group of 20 high school juniors and seniors who received paid healthcare internships at Hennepin Healthcare will celebrate the conclusion of their experiences at a luncheon at 11:30 a.m. on Friday, August 19.

Youth of color who attended one of Hennepin Healthcare’s Black Men with Stethoscopes or Black Women with Stethoscopes Talent Garden events were encouraged to apply for these opportunities to intern at the Level I Trauma Center and public teaching hospital in downtown Minneapolis.

“We received 44 applications for the program,” explained Jim Peters, Program Development Manager, Office of Health Equity at Hennepin Healthcare.  “We made 22 offers and 20 accepted. This is the first time we’ve invited youth to get a such a close look at the healthcare careers that they can pursue – and how they can pursue them – and it’s been incredibly successful.”  

Interns were given a wide range of educational experiences, including:

  • Rotations in the Emergency Department, Department of Medicine, Radiology, Physical Therapy, and Hennepin Healthcare’s Community Clinics
  • Hennepin EMS training, including training for the emergency medical responder test (which all 20 interns passed)
  • Assisting Welcome Desk services
  • Meeting with medical students from the University of Minnesota Medical School
  • Executive and leadership shadowing
  • Classroom discussions and presentations

Throughout the program, individual interns were paired with a physician or other team leader to answer questions and guide them through their day’s experience. It was a unique opportunity to learn about healthcare careers by seeing firsthand what professionals do in many roles.  For some participants who already expressed an interest in medicine, it helped sharpen their career path focus. Here’s what some of them shared about their internship:

“I was already interested in becoming a physician, ” said Albert, a junior from East Ridge High School. “And after spending time shadowing doctors at the Richfield Clinic, I’m very interested in Primary Care.”

Derrick, a senior from Brooklyn Park, met with Hennepin EMS Chief Marty Scheerer, and now wants to pursue the EMT to paramedic program. “It’s cool – why wouldn’t you want to do it?” he said.

The Talent Garden appreciates the support of BCBS of Minnesota for sponsoring the paid internship opportunities for these future healthcare professionals. The successful conclusion of this summer’s internship program will likely spark many conversations and intriguing questions and answers to “how I spent my summer.” For many of these interns, it was most definitely transformational.

What:             Lunch Celebration for Talent Garden Interns
Where:          Hennepin Healthcare’s Clinic & Specialty Center, Stillman Room
When:            11:30 a.m., Friday, August 19, 2022

Hennepin Healthcare’s Talent Garden inspires and supports historically excluded youth to pursue careers in healthcare. Programs are designed to make big strides in introducing youth to healthcare jobs. The Talent Garden’s purpose is to change the trajectory of their lives and careers through youth summits and hands-on activities, mentorships, experience-based learning, and paid internships. For more information go to www.hennepinhealthcare.org/talentgarden.