Carena, a virtual urgent care center in Seattle, has gained a healthy following among brick-and-mortar urgent care clinics around the country by “seeing” patients with fairly typical complaints like rashes and symptoms of bladder infections. The company reports that their lines are really jumping now that flu season is in full force. They, and other e-medicine providers, can’t offer flu shots, of course, but they can help patients who don’t have the flu avoid exposure to patients who do. Primary care offices and even emergency rooms are referring patients to Carena thanks to waiting rooms overcrowded with patients complaining of flu-like symptoms. The company’s 25 providers, which include both family medicine physicians and nurse practitioners, assess patients based on their answers to questions posed on its website (some of which are devised to determine whether the patient needs to disconnect and call 911). If a virtual visit is warranted, patients typically get a callback within 20 minutes (average time: 10 minutes). Right now, many patients log on looking for medication for self-diagnosed flu symptoms, so the online docs and nurses are mindful of red flags—dehydration, serious respiratory issues—that would indicate the need for an in-person visit to a clinic. It’s a timely concern; North Carolina just revealed 16 people have died due to flu-related illness this year, while California just announced that 14 deaths there have been attributed to influenza.

Jump in Flu Cases Increases Telemedicine Use
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