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Need a doctor? Virtual visits can help lessen virus spread

SNOHOMISH COUNTY — Health care officials are walking the tightrope to treat COVID-19 while minimizing its spread, and some local health agencies are setting up systems to do both. 
The Everett Clinic is now offering telehealth visits on a computer or tablet device, by appointment, to people older than 3 months of age. They are available by calling 425-257-1400. Openings are Monday through Friday 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Telehealth visits must be scheduled in advance. 
The online video appointment is with an individual provider, on a computer or smart phone. The virtual room is for patients who have symptoms of upper respiratory illness, cough or fever and want to be seen for those concerns.
Off-site appointments are available for those with potential COVID-19 illness based on symptoms such as shortness of breath, fever and cough. From those visits, providers can recommend care based on the current Centers for Disease Control and state Department of Health guidelines. 
The goal, says the Everett Clinic, is to minimize exposure by hosting this video visit instead of a visit in-person. In turn, the limited in-person contact for sick people will limit spread in the community as a whole. 
Western Washington Medical Group (WWMG) is also taking strides to limit transmission of COVID-19. 
“We are in the process of evaluating televisit platforms and have done some testing with patients,” CEO and pulmonologist David Russian said last week. “We plan to roll out the televisit option to all of our patients as soon as possible, hopefully next week.” 
He said WWMG will accept insurance payments for the televists, but “if insurance does not cover the visit, we will charge a flat fee.” The plan for WWMG televisits is to offer them as both scheduled appointments and urgent care visits “when appropriate.  Not all problems will be appropriate for a televisit (for example, a laceration),” Russian said. 
To reduce exposure, some patients can be evaluated for potential COVID-19 in their vehicles, Russian said, including testing them in their car.  
“This will help protect other patients from being exposed,” Russian said. 
Interim health officer Dr. Chris Spitters of the Snohomish Health District advised in early March that phone calls be the go-to for health concerns related to COVID-19. Health officials are trying to avoid what in-person contact can bring: transmission of the virus, if someone does have COVID-19; exposure to it if they do not have it; and displacement of more serious cases, if someone is concerned but does not need medical care. 
People with symptoms also experienced with cold or flu can be potentially symptomatic for COVID-19. So those with upper respiratory illnesses that trigger shortness of breath, fever and cough will be seen only at the Everett Clinic locations in Everett, Smokey Point, Shoreline and Bothell.
Other clinics are designated for non-symptomatic patients with other health concerns. For a full list of clinics and conditions they are limited to, go to https://www.everettclinic.com/news/visit-right-walk-clinic-coronavirus-symptoms
The best protection against spreading COVID-19 is the same advice given during flu season:
• Practice good hand hygiene: washing hands often for 20 seconds in warm water with soap, or using alcohol-based hand sanitizer. 
• Coughing and sneezing are the symptoms most likely to spread illness such as coronavirus, cold and flu: cover your cough with a tissue or the crook of your elbow.
• Reduce fever with anti-inflammatories such as Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Motrin (ibuprofen) but follow directions of the package, or your doctor if you have special health directives.  
Eighty percent of people infected with COVID-19 may experience mild illness. A high level of concern for all flu and other illness includes the following symptoms and should result in a 911 call: difficulty breathing, high fever that does not reduce with anti-inflammatories, lethargy and unresponsiveness. 
Additional agencies with telemedicine options:
• Western Washington Medical Group has an online patient portal to contact doctors for non-urgent medical inquiries, and a coronavirus link on its website at www.wwmedgroup.com
• EvergreenHealth in Monroe has a 24-Hour Consulting Nurse: call 425-899-3555 and a website to assist patients with assessing illness: www.evergreenhealthmonroe.com/coronavirus-info
• Swedish has a “Coronavirus assessment tool” in the lower right hand corner of this link: www.swedish.org/patient-visitor-info/coronavirus-advisory
• Providence also has an assessment tool: https://www.providence.org/patients-and-visitors/coronavirus-advisory
• Providence encourages people to use ExpressCare Virtual at https://virtual.providence.org/ Patients can attend from a tablet, smartphone or computer, and be in contact for a live video with a board-certified provider. The experience is $49 or less per visit and many insurance plans are accepted. The service is offered seven days a week, and has extended its hours. 
• Multi-Care offers free eVisits for coronavirus. The visits are usually $25. Use promo code “COVID19” to waive the fee. Go to www.multicare.org/virtualcare/ Or for those with trouble accessing the online service, call 253-200-3125.
If you have a regular clinic, keep that number on-hand, particularly if you have symptoms, are older than 60, or have underlying health conditions.
Webpages for most public agencies are carrying updates. Visit these: 
* www.facebook.com/SnohomishHealth
* www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html
* www.snohd.org/484/Novel-Coronavirus-2019 
Schools and parents are advised to direct questions to the state Department of Health, which has established a call center at 1-800-525-0127, press #.

 

  

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