Coronavirus: Virtual medical visits more prevalent as COVID-19 infections continue to spread

One of the messages public health experts want you to know is that if you feel sick, you should call your doctor's office instead of showing up for an in-person visit.

Calling can help prevent the spread of coronavirus and help lower the risk of exposure of others. A local health system has a hands-free approach to this dilemma.

Robert Gallegos is a physician assistant with Providence Express Care Virtual. When he meets with patients online, he can do a fairly complete exam.

"Just want you to palpate your neck there for me," he said. "Any tenderness? Any lymph nodes?"

Nurse practitioner Jamie Hilbert demonstrated on her laptop what a virtual medical visit looks like.

"We do a self-guided physical exam by touching their cheeks in there for you. We see if there is any wheezing," Gallegos said.

Gallegos and Hilbert see patients through a virtual app called Providence Health Connect or on the Providence Express Care Virtual website.

While most of the calls have been from Washington state, calls from Southern Californians concerned about COVID-19 have soared.

"It's increased by at least 100%," Gallego said.

Because of the evolving novel coronavirus crisis, Providence Health just launched an interactive screening tool that helps patients assess risks for COVID-19 and whether you might need testing or not.

"Then when we call the health department and they tell us what to do," Gallegos said. "But what you don't want to do is rush to an emergency room if there's no need because you don't want to get others sick or get more sick yourself."

A virtual visit costs $49, but insurance is also accepted. Virtual healthcare practitioners can also prescribe medication.
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