When Serena Jenkins woke up with a swollen, irritated eye, she looked on the bright side.

Here was a chance to try out her new TytoCare device.

The TytoCare exam kit can be used in a video visit to allow a medical provider to perform many of the functions of an exam remotely— including checking a patient’s heart rate, temperature, lungs and ears.

Spectrum Health recently began a partnership with TytoCare, enabling patients and providers to use the device in video visits.

Jenkins, a clinical practice supervisor with the Spectrum Health Greenville Family Medicine Clinic, was one of the first team members to obtain a TytoCare device through the initial pilot program.

Although Spectrum Health has offered telehealth visits for some time, the lightweight, portable TytoCare device allows providers to make a much more comprehensive assessment.

“It’s a game changer,” said Jared Cowan, Spectrum Health’s director of operations for virtual health. “It really opens up the opportunity for more patients to be seen virtually.”

Jenkins made an appointment with David Cutter, PA-C, a physician assistant who also works in the Greenville clinic.

In her home, she initiated the video visit through the Spectrum Health app on her phone, which she had already paired with the TytoCare device.

First, she held the TytoCare camera to her swollen eye so he could get a good look at it. He said the issue did not look serious—it appeared something had gotten in the eye and caused temporary irritation.

In the exam, they tried out several other features that come with the TytoCare kit.

“It was very easy,” Jenkins said. “The instructions are so clear. On the phone and the Tyto screen, they show what to do, step by step.”

‘I could see everything’

Jenkins attached the thermometer to check her temperature and the stethoscope to listen to her heart rate. If she had someone nearby to hold the device to her back, they would have listened to her lungs, also.

Jenkins attached an ear scope, so Cutter could see inside her ears.

And using the tongue depressor attachment, she captured a video image of her throat.

“It went pretty smoothly,” Cutter said. “It definitely enhanced the visit experience, being able to collect more information and it helped inform medical decisions.”

For Jenkins, using the device had an added advantage: The video images of her ears and throat also were displayed on her phone.

“It was pretty cool because I could see everything he was seeing,” she said. “The picture was really clear and overall good quality.”

In the end Cutter advised her to put warm compresses on her eye. The irritation disappeared within a few days.

After the visit, Jenkins saw the potential the device had for future health questions—especially for her 11-year-old son, Andrew. When possible, she would prefer doing a telehealth visit, instead of a trip to an urgent care clinic, when he is sick.

Device gets high marks

In April 2020, Spectrum Health began a partnership with TytoCare to use its device, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, in telehealth visits.

After the device was connected with the electronic medical records system, training began for medical providers.

All Spectrum Health primary care providers now can use the TytoCare exam kits with their patients.

And patients may use the device with Spectrum Health on-demand video visits, available 24 hours a day.

The TytoCare kit could come in handy for visits regarding a wide range of common conditions, including stomach aches, allergies, sinus pain, colds and congestion, bug bites, ear infections, pink eye, fevers and rashes.

In the pilot project, both patients and providers said TytoCare improved the video visit experience. A survey found 65% of patients said it increased the quality and comprehensiveness of the exam. Additionally, 65% of providers said they could perform a similar assessment to an in-person exam.

In the coming months, Cowan said patients will also be able to use the device with Spectrum Health Medical Group specialists, such as pediatric pulmonologists and oncologists.