From telemedicine to booking house calls, technology can help keep your family safe and healthy.
The New York metro area leads the U.S. in the number of COVID-19 cases, but there is some good news: There are lower infection rates in children. Plus, those ages 19 and younger who have been tested appear to have milder illness with almost no hospitalizations. While that is good news for our children, researchers don’t know yet (because the virus is still so new) if there will be long-term health effects of the novel coronavirus—even for people who have mild cases. The best thing to do? Take steps to reduce the spread of the coronavirus (and, in turn, reduce the chances of your family getting COVID-19)—and that smartphone in your hand can play a role in keeping your family safe.
We know anyone of any age can contract or transmit COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s advice? Teach your children to follow the same protocol recommended to the rest of us.
We could tell you to wash your hands regularly, don’t touch your face (especially in public), and cover your mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze…and you should! But we have a feeling you’ve already heard and are following that advice. If you have the basics covered, here are four tech-savvy ways to help keep your family healthy—and do your part to slow the spread of the virus.
Tip #1: Get Alerts from the Right Sources
The same way we are encouraged to do our part in preventing the spread of the coronavirus, each of us can be good citizens by helping to stop the spread of misinformation. In this case, preventing undue panic by verifying sources before passing information along. After all, knowledge is power—as long as you’re getting your intel from a verified source. Your family, friends, neighbors, and even the media likely don’t intend to spread false information, but in the case of COVID-19, updates change quickly and change hands almost as fast.
To provide an accurate overview of viral activity in your area, most cities are offering text message alerts for up-to-the-minute information. Here in New York, you simply have to text “COVID” to 692-692 to get the latest updates and tips from Notify NYC.
At the state and national level, the CDC tracks state-reported cases of COVID-19 online daily, updating its information Monday-Friday at 12pm. The CDC tracks not only the number of cases per state, but also the number of deaths and the origin of those cases (be it travel, close contact, or another source).
Tip #2: Avoid Contamination
During any kind of illness outbreak in your community, the doctor’s office is not necessarily your friend. Any family who’s walked into a waiting room for a rash and left with Influenza B already knows.
While seeking out medical attention is non-negotiable, there are sometimes healthier alternatives to a waiting room filled with worse germs than the ones your kids came in with.
For minor issues, telemedicine is your new secret weapon. A virtual visit can be a game-changer for easily-diagnosed issues such as rashes or chicken pox—and many health care providers are now offering virtual visits as an option. Your insurance policy’s explanation of benefits should detail whether these services are covered, and there are plenty of medical apps specializing in pediatric care. During this pandemic, brace for longer-than-usual wait times and expect a charge of about $50 (give or take depending on the provider and your insurance).
Often, however, there’s no substitute for an in-person exam, with illnesses such as strep throat and ear infections requiring hands-on medical attention and in-person rapid tests. That’s where house calls come in. Whether you’re afraid of catching COVID-19 or you’re doing your civic duty by committing to not spreading the coronavirus, apps like Opear MD were invented for convenience and quarantine. The idea is simple: Instead of traveling across town and sitting in a crowded, germ-filled room while you wait for a 5-minute exam, a local pediatric health care provider will come to you. Bada bing, bada boom. The licensed doctor, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant of your choice can be at your doorstep in as little as 2 hours.
While prices vary by practice, a house call from Opear MD will run just $150 in New York. (At the time of this article, the company has waived sign-up fees and age restrictions to help combat COVID-19).
Tip #3: Get the Flu Shot. Seriously!
Isn’t medicine the best technology of all?
Winter may officially be over, but flu season is still underway. New cases of flu, while dwindling, are still above the baseline for every region in the U.S. with high hospitalizations among children and young adults—and an uncharacteristically high pediatric death toll of 149 (across the U.S.) as of March 14, 2020.
If you think you missed the boat on getting your family’s flu shots, let’s bust a couple myths:
Myth: “It’s too late to get the flu vaccine.”
Fact: The flu season can easily last well into April and even May. Given that flu shots are often free with health insurance, “better late than never” really is the name of the game. Keep in mind that many pharmacies—essential businesses that are remaining open during the coronavirus quarantine—have clinics to help you access vaccinations quickly without a trip to the doctor.
Myth: “The flu vaccine is a bad match.”
Fact: Okay, that’s partly true. This season’s vaccine is only a 58 percent match for influenza B (“B/Victoria”), which has hit children especially hard.
But a partial match is better protection than no vaccination at all, and an imperfect match can still offer partial immunity. So, even if your kids do end up with the flu despite receiving a shot, it could very well be a much milder case. Flu vaccines are reducing doctor visits associated with flu illness by 55 percent in children, according to Governor Cuomo’s office—and in times like these, avoiding the waiting room could be critical.
Tip #4 Utilize apps and delivery services so you can stay home.
Amazon and Instacart are some of the best-known food-delivery (and everything-delivery) services, but in 2020 there is an app or subscription service offering delivery for just about everything you need in your daily life—and especially now that you’re staying home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Here are a few examples:
- CVS and Cabinet deliver medical prescriptions.
- Marketplaces such as ButcherBox, Sea2Table, Hungry Harvest, and Thrive Market offer subscriptions for protein, produce, and specialty health foods.
- 1800Contacts.com offers online eye exams and prescription renewals.
- Get cleaning products sent to you from Grove or Blueland.
- Countless craft boxes, such as KiwiCo and Bluprint, will keep the kids entertained for hours. (The government may not consider entertainment an “essential,” but anyone with kids knows differently!)
The future is now, Moms and Dads! Despite the rise of COVID-19 cases and a long and difficult flu season, we can best stay calm by being informed and prepared. With well-washed hands and a few trusty technology tips, hopefully we can all breathe just a little bit easier this spring.
Opear MD is New York’s first app for pediatric house calls. Download Opear for iPhone or Android to find licensed doctors, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants available on-demand 7 days a week. For more information, visit opear.com.