Kathryn Fielder felt miserable.
Her throat was sore, she had a nasty cough and her ears ached.
It was January 2022. With a high number of COVID-19 cases in Michigan, she opted to take an at-home test for the virus.
A few days later, she felt no better. But living in a rural area south of Alpena, with her primary care doctor four hours away, she had limited options.
“I didn’t want to expose myself to COVID-19 going into an emergency room, or expose anyone else to whatever I had,” Fielder said.
She knew just the answer.
Months earlier, her daughter had given her the new TytoCare Medical Exam Kit. During a video visit, the exam kit lets providers perform many of the same functions of an in-person exam, including checking heart rate, taking temperature, listening to lungs and looking in the throat and ears.
A Spectrum Health partnership with TytoCare allows patients and providers to use the device in video visits.
Spectrum Health offers virtual visits to anyone age 3 or older, anywhere in Michigan. The service connects patients virtually with a medical professional, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Patients can connect using their smartphone.
“The great thing about this was that I did it all from the comfort of my own bed,” she said.
Elizabeth Suing, PA-C, a Spectrum Health virtual urgent care provider with seven years experience, connected with Fielder for the online appointment.
Suing is Fielder’s daughter, and the connection that day was made by chance.
Fielder paired the kit with her smartphone and Suing guided her through the kit’s steps.
“It was very easy to set up,” Fielder said.
Interestingly, Fielder could see on her screen what the provider was seeing in her ears, which is not possible during a regular medical visit.
Suing diagnosed her with an ear infection and prescribed antibiotics to pick up at a local pharmacy.
“It was very efficient, and by the time I had everything done it was probably under an hour,” Fielder said. “I was very pleased and I would definitely recommend it to anyone.”
Within a few days of starting the antibiotic, she felt much better.
After helping people use the TytoCare exam kit daily during virtual visits, Suing appreciated that Fielder could benefit from it as well.
“I always say we were doing virtual medicine before it was cool,” Suing said. “The pandemic really accelerated the need for virtual medicine, but I hear from patients that they continue to want to use it even when they’re able to be out and around other people.”
The TytoCare exam kit has enhanced what providers like Suing are able to do in a virtual visit.
In her mother’s case, for instance, Fielder would have needed to be seen in person to determine if she had an ear infection requiring antibiotic treatment.
“You really need to do an exam with an otoscope so you can see what’s in their ear,” Suing said. The otoscope is included in the TytoCare exam kit.
Those without strong technical skills should not be intimidated by the kit or a virtual visit.
“It’s very intuitive and easy to use,” Suing said.
Providers guide patients through each step.
Spectrum Health’s partnership with TytoCare began in April 2020. After the FDA-approved device was connected to the Spectrum Health electronic medical records system, training began for medical providers, including Suing.
The TytoCare exam kit helps providers virtually assess a range of common conditions, including stomachaches, allergies, sinus pain, colds and congestion, bug bites, ear infections, pink eye, fevers and rashes.
“Patients love it once they give it a try,” Suing said.