To encourage more Michigan residents to get a flu shot, Spectrum Health has launched one of the Midwest’s first curbside vaccination programs.

The hospital piloted the program at select locations this past summer and it now has more than 40 sites operational across West Michigan.

“We wanted to meet patients where they are most comfortable—and for many that’s right in their vehicle,” said Rima Shah, MD, vice president and department chief for primary health at Spectrum Health.

“There are several benefits to curbside, including no time spent in waiting rooms,” she added. “We continually remind our patients that whether they choose to see us virtually or in-person, we’re here for you and we’re ready for you.”

The new curbside service is offered to patients of all ages. It provides many immunizations—including childhood vaccinations—as well as injections, tests and blood pressure checks.

The host of services includes flu vaccines, B12 injections, strep tests and more.

It has also proven helpful for patients who have mobility challenges.

Ultimately the program is meant to help families stay on schedule with vaccinations, said Mary Zimmerman, immunization program specialist at Spectrum Health.

With various medical appointments postponed or canceled during the pandemic, many people fell behind on routine care. Zimmerman noticed a 25% decrease in overall vaccinations.

She and her team have been doing everything possible to make it easier for people to get a flu shot this year.

“There are 16 vaccines available for serious illnesses, all of which are preventable diseases,” she said. “In the past two years we have seen outbreaks in Michigan on measles, mumps and hepatitis A. We are hoping this new service will ease people’s minds and make it easier to keep up on necessary vaccinations.”

Fast and easy

Amol Riswadkar used the curbside service recently at Spectrum Health Integrated Care Campus at East Beltline.

It’s all about convenience, Riswadkar said.

“This was super easy, convenient and close by,” he said. “This is just so much easier than going into the doctor’s office. I literally live five minutes away and the entire appointment only took five minutes.”

Spectrum Health medical assistant Kassi Salmon held a window tray as she approached a vehicle at the curbside service.

“The window trays are really nice,” she said. “I feel like I work at Sonic with this curbside service!”

Salmon said she and her team are improving on the process every day.

Appointments can be scheduled online via My Chart or by calling 877.362.8362 and requesting a curbside visit. A scheduler will explain how to find designated parking spaces upon arrival.

On arrival, patients can call the phone number displayed on a sign at the site, which completes their registration process.

A clinical team will then meet patients at their vehicle, ready to provide the necessary service through the car window.

Spectrum Health has already provided hundreds of curbside visits, with most appointments lasting less than 10 minutes.

Spectrum Health leaders are looking at the possibility of adding additional services to the curbside system, as long it can be done safely and efficiently for patients.