Children's Health Hopes ‘Virtual Visit' App Helps Families With Flu Frenzy

Virtual Visit app allows families to see a doctor from home or on the road while traveling this holiday season

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With Christmas and holiday break only a few days away and families getting ready to go on vacation, being sick is never in their plans. Children’s Medical Center hopes to prevent the spread of the flu with their "Virtual Visit" app on smartphone, tablet and computer.

Health officials say the flu is spiking early this year and could get worse before it gets better.

According to the latest report from Dallas County Health and Human Services, more than 30,000 people have been tested for the flu so far this season. Around 4,000 of those tests have returned positive in Dallas County so far.

There have also been more than 150 flu-related hospitalizations.

Pediatric pulmonologist Dr. Preeti Sharma joins NBC 5 to discuss high flu numbers in Texas so far this season and what to do to treat it.

Two adults died in Dallas County last week. Across Texas, six children have died from flu-related complications, including one in Tarrant County.

Just this past week at Children’s Medical Center Dallas, doctors saw 370 positive cases of influenza.

The hospital is hoping to prevent the spread with their "Virtual Visit" app on smartphone, tablet and computer.

If parents are traveling with their kids or want to avoid bringing them outside and to the doctor's office, both parents and children can see a doctor through video conference on the app.

They can be diagnosed with illnesses like flu or strep throat and get prescribed medication, without having to step out of the house.

"We wanted to enable an application with Children's Health outside of the brick and mortar emergency room to allow patients that didn't want to bring their family or their children that weren't sick to the ER and expose them to other flus and illnesses or colds," said Victoria Rodino, director of Telehealth operations, who developed the app. "This allows them to stay in their home setting."

Once registered, you can select which doctor you want to use. Wait times are low, often times five to 10 minutes.

"The app is also accessible outside of Texas. So if you’re traveling on vacation and you’re with your family and you just got on the plane and you’re not feeling well or someone caught a cold and don’t want to ruin your vacation -- you can download the app and it will see on your mobile device that you are logging in in another state," explained Rodino. "It will find you a provider in that state, so you can do a visit and still have a prescription sent to a local pharmacy near you.”

Doctors on the app say official testing can only be done in person but often times, illnesses like strep or flu won't show up any way if tested too early.

"If it’s really early in the process, many times a test still doesn’t confirm it," said Kenneth Dakin, a physician's assistant with Children's Health. "It’s more of the story, it’s more of the patient’s presentation in their symptoms that really paints the diagnosis for them.”

Dakin said it's important to get treatment with medications prescribed quickly and early to prevent further complications.

Of course, if symptoms are severe, parents still need to visit an ER or urgent care provider and not rely on the app.

“If their breathing is faster and their fever is staying up and above for multiple days in a row or if the throat is really painful and it’s hard for them to swallow, and they don’t want to eat -- then that needs to be investigated,” Dakin said.

Anyone can download the app, even if you don't have health insurance or are unsure if you're covered. Children's Health charges a flat $55 fee per visit.

Click here for more information about the app.

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