Peoria, Ill.,
13:47 PM

Getting the right care: that could be virtually

OSF HealthCare hospitals, clinics, and emergency departments across the state continue to see a big influx of people seeking care. The increase in patients in waiting rooms can lead to elevated exposure of germs and viruses, plus longer wait times.

As many viruses continue to make the rounds in our communities, it is paramount to monitor your symptoms and know when the right time is to seek medical care in person. Sarah Overton, the Chief Nursing Officer for OSF Medical Group, Home Care and Employee Health, stresses the importance of virtual care when your symptoms are mild.

“That way we’re not exposing you to anyone in the public and you’re not exposing the health care worker to illness,” Overton says. “Unfortunately, we are seeing an increase in health care worker illness where our nurses and doctors have to stay home because they are being exposed to illness.”

Hospitals across the OSF Ministry have been seeing a spike in COVID-19 patients. If you suspect you have COVID-19 but your symptoms are mild, take an at-home COVID-19 test. The federal government has another stockpile of at-home tests that are free to order on Every household can receive four free rapid tests. Dr. Brian Curtis, Vice President of Clinical Specialty Services with OSF HealthCare, says taking tests at home will help free up space at medical facilities.

“Coming in just to get tested takes up spots for the people that are really sick or are high-risk,” Dr. Curtis says.

“The Emergency Room is reserved for those true emergencies,” Overton adds. “We have patients that have heart attacks and lung issues with their COPD. Additional patients overflowing the Emergency Room takes away precious time from assessing those patients who shouldn’t be exposed to those viruses while being in our waiting rooms.”

But COVID-19 isn’t the only virus making the rounds in our communities right now. Influenza, Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) and others are being seen often as well. So how can we stop the spread of viruses?

·         Stay home when you aren’t feeling well.

·         Wash your hands and use hand sanitizer regularly.

·         Cough or sneeze into your elbow.

·         Wipe down high-touch surfaces with disinfectant wipes.

·         Don’t share glasses or silverware with others.

·         Receive the flu shot.

For treating mild symptoms at home, Dr. Curtis offers some guidance for using over-the-counter options.

“You can take Tylenol or Motrin for fevers and aches. Make sure to drink plenty of fluids and get plenty of rest,” Dr. Curtis says.

Overton says to make sure you read the labels on any over-the-counter medication you buy. If you have any questions, you can ask a retail pharmacist, or send a message through MyChart to your OSF care team.

When is the right time to be seen?

“If you have a super deep cough that’s hanging on for quite a while or have a fever that lasts for several days,” Overton says. “Or if you have high-risk factors and may benefit from some of our medications for COVID, like Paxlovid, which are readily available in our retail pharmacy locations. We also have COVID-19 boosters able to be administered in our primary care offices.”

“There is a medication for influenza, but if you have a mild case, you’ll have more side effects from the medication than you are having from influenza itself. As far as RSV goes, there’s really no treatment for it except for supportive care.”

If you are sick and plan to visit a medical facility, please cover your face with a mask to decrease exposure to the health care workers.

Colds and viruses tend to last one to two weeks. If your symptoms are more serious or linger on much longer than that, reach out to your primary care team and schedule an appointment. You can also consider an in-person or virtual visit to OSF OnCall Urgent Care. A virtual visit is available 24/7.

Sarah Overton interview clips

Dr. Brian Curtis interview clips