GRAND RAPIDS, Mich — As the holidays wrap up, flu season often starts to ramp up. Kids are going back to school and adults are headed back to work.
It's common knowledge that hand washing, covering a cough and getting the flu shot all help in preventing the flu, but now Michigan residents can get help fighting the illness all from their home through Spectrum Health.
Their program, Spectrum Health Now is a virtual platform for patients in Michigan to see and speak to a medical professional on a smartphone, tablet or computer 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
"It's still the same quality of care that you would receive in person it just opens up the access so you can be seen where you want to be seen," said Spectrum Health Now Physician Assistant Elizabeth Suing.
She said its specific goal is to help "low acuity" problems like a cough, cold, flu and rashes by communicating with a doctor through video.
"It's something that when our patients try it once, they'll typically use it again," Suing said.
Spectrum staff is handling around 100 patients a day. It's only suited for patients who are at least 3 years old. Just two days after Christmas, 136 patients used the program which is the largest number to date.
Spectrum Health Now is accessible through an app or a computer with the webcam.
If the medical professional decides patients need a prescription, that's taken care of too.
"We electronically send those in and can treat you just like we would in the office," Suing said.
She advises anyone with symptoms of the flu to stay at home to keep it from spreading.
"Influenza is super contagious, it's spread by droplets," Suing said. "Going into urgent care [or] a primary care office, you might infect somebody else with it or you might contract some other illness while you're there."
Spectrum Health Now says 52% of the illnesses they treated for nearly 65,000 patients during last flu season were flu-related.
So far this year, 48% of the 3500 patients seen have been flu-related.
While Michigan is still on the lower end for flu activity level currently, there are more states seeing high activity levels now as compared to a month ago.
The Centers for Disease Control estimates that there have been at least 6.4 million flu cases nationwide this year.
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