It’s World AIDS Day—Let’s Talk About PrEP!

Pills of prescription PrEP Pills for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis to help protect people from HIV.

There are approximately 1.1 million people in the US living with HIV today. World AIDS Day, celebrated each December 1st, is an opportunity to increase awareness and knowledge about HIV, support those living with the virus, and champion efforts to prevent new infections.

One such effort? Pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP: a once-a-day pill that prevents HIV-negative people from becoming infected.

PrEP is over 90% effective at preventing HIV infection. When used as directed, it’s one of the most powerful tools for stopping the spread of AIDS— and yet, the drug is largely underutilized.

A myriad of barriers drives low usage rates: cost, accessibility, and—perhaps most unfortunately—stigma.

Even today, HIV is unfairly stigmatized by homophobia. Many—especially those in the queer community—are hesitant to seek out drugs like PrEP for fear of feeling judged.

Moreover, when you talk about HIV prevention, you have to talk about sex—which, let’s face it, can be uncomfortable. Many doctors and patients shy away from discussing PrEP due to feelings of embarrassment.

At Zoom, we want to eliminate factors that prevent people from seeking care. We encourage open, honest discussions about HIV risk; we strive to create a stigma-free environment where people can access screening and prevention options that are safe, effective, and meet their needs.

Talking openly about HIV screening and prevention confronts the stigma associated with the virus. It also helps normalize drugs like PrEP as a routine part of preventive healthcare, just like birth control. That’s why— in anticipation of World AIDS Day—we sat down with one of our providers, Allison Ehrlich, for a frank discussion about this life-saving drug. Read on:

Hi Allison! Thank you so much for sitting down to talk PrEP with us. First things first: What is PrEP?

PrEP, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, is the act of taking daily medications, such as Truvada, that can help prevent contracting HIV through sexual activity and IV drug use in combination with safer sex practices including using condoms and lube, talking with your partner about HIV status, and getting tested regularly for STIs. 

Why do we need new HIV prevention tools like PrEP? Aren’t condoms enough?

We have come a long way in the medical field with testing, treating and preventing HIV with PrEP, Truvada being one of these medications. Condoms are a great tool when used with PrEP to help protect yourself from HIV in addition to other STIs, but are not enough alone. They can break, may not be used properly, or not provide adequate coverage to reduce the risk of transmission of an STI. 

Who is a good candidate for PrEP? How do I know if it’s right for me? 

PrEP is recommended for the following populations: men who have sex with men (MSM), sex with multiple partners, involved in an open relationship, engage in sexual activity with a partner who is HIV+, or uses IV drugs. 

PrEP might be right for you if you have the following risk factors:

  • Have one or more HIV+ or injection sexual partners
  • Having sex with someone in a sexual network where HIV is common
  • Having a prior STI
  • Participate in sex work
  • Using condoms inconsistently or never
  • Share injection equipment 

It is important to talk with your healthcare provider and be honest about your sexual and medical history and lifestyle risk factors. They can help determine if PrEP is right for you. 

How effective is PrEP, and how soon does PrEP become effective after you start it? 

Per the CDC: “Studies have shown that PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by about 99% when taken daily. Among people who inject drugs, PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV by at least 74% when taken daily.”

PrEP when taken daily takes at least 7 days for maximum protection against HIV.

Are there any side effects?

Side effects in clinical trials included nausea or headaches, but usually subside over several weeks. 

If I’m taking PrEP, do I still need to get tested for STIs?

Yes, you need to get tested every 3 months for HIV, and every 6 months for other STIs—sooner if you have any concerns. 

I’m worried I’ve been exposed to HIV. Is PrEP a good option for me?

No, PrEP is pre-exposure prophylaxis and is used before you come into contact with HIV. If you are worried you have already been exposed to HIV, then you will need PEP, post-exposure prophylaxis. This is a month-long course of therapy that needs to be started within 72 hours of exposure. 

I’m nervous about talking to my doctor about PrEP. How should I bring it up?

ZOOM+Care is a great place to talk about PrEP, because we understand it can be a sensitive topic. It is important to be clear about wanting to start PrEP. We will need to discuss your medical and sexual history to help us determine your risk factors, if you are a good candidate for PrEP, and how to best assist you in getting Truvada.

Why does ZOOM+Care support the use of PrEP?

PrEP, in combination with safer sex practices and other prevention tools, is an amazing method to help protect yourself from becomming infected with HIV. ZOOM+Care is open 7 days a week, holidays, and have clinics open until midnight providing easy access to care. Our central pharmacy is happy to assist with Truvada for PrEP and discuss ways to reduce the monthly cost. You can go online at zoomcare.com or on the iOS app to schedule a visit.

Interested in HIV screening, education, or prevention? We’re here. Schedule an appointment today.

The Health Benefits of Counting Your Blessings

Thank you note on stocky note on blue background gratitude

You’ve heard your grandma say it a thousand times: Count your blessings. The adage is annoyingly prevalent during the holiday season, but—as it turns out—granny was onto something. Burgeoning research shows that gratitude has tangible, positive effects on mental and physical health, including better sleep, reduced depression, and improved relationships.

Let’s back up a little—what is gratitude, anyways?

Robert Emmons (one of the leading scientific experts on this topic) defines gratitude as a “sense of wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation for life.”

If you’re feeling a little more Grinch than Cindy Lou, here are four science-backed reasons to start cultivating gratitude this Thanksgiving—and year-round, too:

1. Sweeter Sleep

After a long, stressful day, your head hits the pillow—and a compilation of your most embarrassing, cringe-worthy memories starts to play. Sound familiar?  

If you’re nodding your head “yes,” you might want to stop counting sheep and start counting blessings instead. According to a 2009 study, cultivating gratitude may help you doze off faster, sleep longer, and wake up feeling more refreshed.

The study linked gratitude to having more positive thoughts (and fewer negative ones) at bedtime. 

It seems obvious, but cultivating positive thoughts helps push pessimism and worry—the enemies of sleep—out of your mind. Rather than obsessing over a friend who forgot to text you back, you’re remembering the coworker who went out of their way to check in with you. Instead of stressing over an awkward social interaction, you’re thinking about that presentation you nailed at work.  

Better than a lullaby, right?

2. improved relationships

Turns out, gratitude is for lovers. 

According to research from the Journal of Theoretical Social Psychology, expressing gratefulness toward your partner can strengthen your bond, improve feelings of harmony, and boost overall satisfaction with your relationship.  

Couples who intentionally expressed gratitude for their significant other not only felt more positively towards them, but were more comfortable addressing concerns about their relationship, too. 

The study’s lead author, Dr. Sara Algoe, says, “Feelings of gratitude and generosity are helpful in solidifying our relationships with people we care about.” 

Want to put gratefulness to practice in your relationship? Here’s an easy tip: Find something you genuinely appreciate about your partner give them an authentic compliment.

3. Boosted physical health

The benefits of thankfulness go beyond the psychological—cultivating gratitude can improve your physical health as well. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, giving thanks on a routine basis can motivate you to meet your diet and exercise goals—and cut down on unhealthy habits such as cigarette smoking and alcohol abuse. 

According to Robert Emmons’ 2003 study, participants who kept a daily gratitude journal exercised more, had more energy and reported fewer aches and pains. 

Emmons also found gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression, which brings us to our next point…

4. Decreased depression levels

While research on gratitude is still in a fledgling state, many psychologists are exploring the relationship between thankfulness, mental health, and depression.  

A recent study in Current Psychology examined the link between gratitude and depression in university students in China. The discovery? Gratitude may “counteract the symptoms of depression by enhancing a state of peace of mind and reducing ruminative thinking.” (Rumination is repetitively going over a negative thought or a situation without moving into problem-solving.)

Anyone who’s struggled with depression knows how awful those persistent, cycling thoughts can be—so the notion that gratitude could help alleviate them is promising, indeed. 

gratitude is not a cure-all

We want to make one thing clear: there’s no evidence that gratitude can cure serious illnesses or depression. It’s not a panacea—and it’s not for everybody, either. 
What cultivating gratitude can do is help us focus on the positive things in our lives, which can help boost our mood more than we ever imagined. 

Ready to start practicing gratitude year-round?

Get started with the tried-and-true “three good things” exercise. Every night, write down three good things that happened during the day.

For some of us, “the most wonderful time of the year” is anything but. If you or someone you know needs mental health support through the holidays, we’re here.

Schedule Now

Why Men Don’t Like Going to the Doctor—and How ZOOM+Care Can Help

Man talking to a doctor at ZOOM+Care about men's health and Movember.

This article is in celebration of the 2020 Movember campaign. The Movember Foundation helps raise  awareness for testicular and prostate cancer, but also focuses on other aspects of men’s  mental—and overall—well-being. 

Trigger warning: the following content contains information on suicide. If you or someone you know is suicidal, please visit The Suicide Prevention Lifeline or call 1-800-273-TALK.

As much as we hate (read: loathe, abhor) gender stereotypes, there’s one cliché that holds true: Men avoid the doctor like the plague.

Compared with women, self-identified males are half as likely to see a doctor over a two-year time period. Compounding this behavior, they frequently leave prescriptions unfilled and skip their recommended medical screenings. When men wind up in the hospital, it’s more likely to be from severe issues such as pneumonia, congestive heart failure, and diabetes—conditions that could easily be uncovered through routine, preventative care. 

Grimmer still? Compared to women, men die five years sooner, live with more years of bad health, and—according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention—are nearly four times more likely to complete suicide. 

Looking at the data, it’s abundantly clear that men don’t like going to the doctor. (So much, in fact, that 72 percent of them would rather clean a toilet then get a check-up.) The real question is why they hate it.

A 2016 survey commissioned by Orlando Health may hold some answers. According to the results, “I’m too busy” (22%) is the number one excuse men give for skipping the doctor. Other top answers include fear of finding out something that may be wrong (21%), followed by discomfort with specific physical exams, such as prostate checks (18%). 

Our societal view of masculinity may also be to blame.

Traditional gender roles dictate that men be strong and resilient; they’re taught to reject their weaknesses and hide their vulnerability. Pretty much everything about a doctor’s office is in opposition to masculine norms, and because of this, men’s anxieties about seeking care may be intensified. (An idea backed by research conducted at Rutgers University in 2016.)

Mental health concerns are compounded by COVID.

According to research conducted by the Movember organization, the COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly affected men’s mental health.

The survey found that 88% of U.S. men questioned thought it was helpful when people checked in on their mental health. Unfortunately, nearly half of the respondents said no one has asked how they’re coping during COVID-19.

Furthermore, 21% of male respondents said their mental health had worsened compared with before COVID-19. Twenty-seven percent admitted they felt lonely more often than before the outbreak.

While sobering, Movember’s survey is an excellent reminder to ask the men in your life how they’re doing, even if they seem fine on the outside. With so many men isolated and disconnected from their usual support networks, checking in is more critical than ever.

How can ZOOM+Care help close the men’s health gap? 

Convenience is key. 

Sixty-one percent of men say they would be more likely to go to the doctor if it was convenient.  

By offering same-day, no-wait visits (both inside and outside of work hours), we make it easy for people of all genders to get care. Only have 30 minutes on your lunch break? No problem. We can get you in and out with time to spare—and meds in hand. 

Using tech to avoid embarrassment.

Beyond being busy, men often forgo treatment because that they’re embarrassed—or simply reluctant—to talk about their health issues.

Our VideoCare™ and ChatCare™ features let patients connect with a provider without setting foot in a doctor’s office—meaning they’re answering questions privately, rather than confessing uncomfortable secrets in person, in an unfamiliar setting. 

VideoCare™ is the perfect choice for first-time patients, and those seeking treatment for chronic ailments, preventative care, and mental health concerns.

ChatCare™  is great for minor illnesses such as allergic rhinitis, sinus infections, colds, and coughs. 

And because it’s easy to refill prescriptions through ChatCare™ and VideoCare™, both can help address the issue of men skipping their meds, too. 

Stamping out stigma.

Up to 41% of adults forego treatment for mental health concerns due to stigma and fear of discrimination. For men—many of whom have been told to “man up” and “shake it off” their whole lives—accessing mental health resources can be particularly daunting, as it goes against cultural expectations. 

We want to make mental healthcare convenient and judgement-free—for men, and for anyone who is nervous about seeking help. Our philosophy is that mental illness is like any other medical illness—it’s no more shameful than a sore throat or a broken bone. As Dr. Erik Vanderlip, our Chief Medical Officer likes to say, “Just like you’d go to the doctor for a sprained ankle, you can see a Mental Health Care professional for an assessment.”

Integration is essential.

Due to growing demand, there’s been an increase in online health retailers and specialty clinics that focus on men’s health concerns—erectile dysfunction and low testosterone being the most common.  These conditions, however, are typically multifactorial. Psychological causes such as depression—and physical factors such as obesity and diabetes—can mimic the same symptoms. For the best treatment, it’s crucial to obtain a high-quality, comprehensive evaluation. 

At ZOOM+Care, we do it all—conveniently, and with discretion.

Do your part for Movember.

Men are our fathers, sons, partners, friends, uncles, and brothers. Let’s work together to create a cultural shift where they don’t find it difficult (or embarrassing) to seek out medical care. This month and every month, encourage men’s health initiatives, foster healthy discussions, and—most importantly—let the men in your life know that we love them, and that their health matters. 

Don’t postpone your care, dudes. Schedule a same-day, no-wait visit today!

On the Fence about the Flu Shot? Read Our FAQ.

Each fall, doctors and public health officials across the country urge virtually every American to get a flu shot. But, despite their best efforts, only about 50% will heed their advice. 

This begs the question: what’s the deal with our low vaccination rates?

A handful of myths and misconceptions about the flu shot may be partly to blame.

Because it’s super-duper important to get vaccinated this year, we wanted answer all of your flu shot questions and ease any concerns you may have.

We sat down with Thad Mick, ZOOM+Care’s Vice President of Pharmaceutical Programs, to talk flu shot myths, common vaccination concerns, the importance of getting the shot this year, and more.

Thad Mick, Vice President of Pharmaceutical Programs at ZOOM+Care.

Hi Thad! Thanks for Talking with us Today.

With COVID-19 still circulating, this flu season is a little different. When would you recommend people get their flu shots this year?

Today!

There is no better time to protect yourself, your family, and your community from flu than right now. The CDC, and the broader medical community, recommend receiving your flu vaccine in the early fall before the flu virus begins circulating broadly. It takes about two weeks to develop a full immune response after the vaccine, so it is better to get protected now rather than wait.

We’ve heard that it’s Extra important to get a flu shot this year. Can you tell us why?

With COVID-19 infection rates on the rise, there have been numerous discussions within the medical community about the potential for a “twindemic.” While a vaccine for COVID-19 is not available today, we do have a safe and effective vaccine to prevent influenza.  

We must use the tools we have available to protect our friends and family and reduce the use of our critical healthcare systems. Flu vaccines are an important tool to limit the amount of respiratory illness circulating in our community. When we receive a flu vaccine, we do our part to protect our communities and ensure we have the much-needed space available in our hospitals and care centers to support those who need it most.  

Is there any concern about the availability of vaccines this year?

Vaccine manufacturers have committed to supplying almost 200 million doses of flu vaccines this season. While there were some early reports of isolated flu vaccine shortages, most communities now have adequate vaccine supplies.   

Do you think the COVID-19 pandemic has increased awareness about flu prevention and general preventative public health measures?

The pandemic has most definitely created an environment of individual social responsibility and awareness around our actions and roles in protecting our community. Each of us recognizes, more than ever, how we can help maintain a safe and protected space with vigilant hand hygiene, social distancing, face coverings, and flu vaccinations.

With each of us doing our part, we can collectively reduce the impact of this pandemic.

When it feels like so much is out of our control these days, it is important to take hold of those areas in our life that we can influence, especially when it comes to protecting our health—and that of our friends and family. “

Thad Mick, Vice President of Pharmaceutical Programs

can the flu shot put you at higher risk for contracting COVID-19? 

There is a ton of misinformation surfacing on social media platforms these days. The truth is that there has not been a single study to date that has demonstrated any additional risk of contracting COVID-19 following a flu vaccine.  

The real concern is a potential co-infection with influenza and SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the COVID-19. Should you become infected with influenza, a compromised immune system may allow CoV-2 to have a more significant impact on your health, leading to more severe symptoms or longer recovery time.

A lot of people want to avoid the doctor’s office right now due to COVID-19. What is ZOOM+Care to make getting a flu shot safe? 

We have always maintained clean, safe, uncrowded clinics that provide on-demand, quality care efficiently. This flu season, we have implemented even more rigorous standards to clean our clinics, ensure our staff is properly attired in PPE to protect them and you, eliminate gathering in our reception area and provide the fastest flu vaccine visit available.

Besides safety, what are some other reasons to get the flu shot at ZOOM+Care? 

We have worked hard to develop a flu vaccination destination that eliminates each of the barriers that exist today in most healthcare facilities.  

We have created a system that allows for on-demand, same-day scheduling for your flu vaccine. No need to plan days or weeks ahead to reserve limited space/time for a flu shot. 

With your appointment booked, all you need to do is show up on time to our crowd-less reception area, complete a quick health survey, and receive your vaccine in a clean private room.  

You will be in and out of your ZOOM+Care flu shot visit in less than five minutes. 

Each year I conduct a secret shopper exercise to test our systems and look for opportunities for improvement. This year I went online at 11:30, booked an appointment during my lunch hour at 12:15, walked into the clinic at 12:14, and left the clinic at 12:18 after getting my shot. The entire experience was less than five minutes.

Are there side effects of the flu vaccine? How common are these side effects? 

Some people report having mild reactions to the flu shot. The most common side effects from flu shots include soreness, redness, tenderness or swelling at the site of the shot, low-grade fever or headache, and mild muscle aches. 

For those who experience these side effects, they usually begin soon after the shot and only last 1-2 days.

How long does the flu vaccine last?

 It takes about two weeks to develop a full immune response after the vaccine. Immunity duration can vary. For most people, it lasts for six to eight months, although it may last longer for some. 

How effective is this year’s vaccine? 

The effectiveness of the flu vaccine varies from year to year, often hovering between 40%-60%. Two primary factors impact the vaccine’s effectiveness: the viral match between the vaccine and the circulating viral strain(s) and the demographics and health status of those vaccinated. 

Even in years when the vaccine’s effectiveness falls to the lower side of this range, benefits are realized when large portions of the population are vaccinated. These include fewer flu-related deaths, reduced severity of symptoms by those who are vaccinated and get sick, and a decline in the number of hospitalizations from the flu.

Say someone never gets the flu. Why should they bother to get a flu shot?

Just because you have not been infected with influenza in the past, don’t fool yourself into thinking you are immune to the flu virus or any other. The odds are that you have just been lucky enough to avoid exposure to some of the more virulent strains of the virus that have circulated in the past. The CDC, and every reputable healthcare expert, recommends that everyone six months of age and older receive a flu vaccine this year.  

Flu vaccines have been shown to reduce the risk of flu illness, hospitalization, and death. Getting a flu vaccine this fall will be more important than ever—not only to reduce your risk from flu but also to help protect those around you and conserve potentially scarce health care resources. It is one of the best things we can do to protect our communities and keep hospital beds free for those who need them during this pandemic.    

Anything else you’d like to add? 

When it feels like so much is out of our control these days, it is important to take hold of those areas in our life that we can influence, especially when it comes to protecting our health—and that of our friends and family.  

With same-day appointments, at a clean, safe, uncrowded clinic that require less than five minutes, at low to no out of pocket cost, there is absolutely no reason to avoid the flu shot; especially this year.

Little pinch. Big payoff. For your best shot at a flu-free fall and winter, get vaccinated at any of our neighborhood clinics today.

Working from Home is a Pain in the Neck. These Ergonomic Dos and Don’ts Can Help.

Spine on blue background. Follow these ergonomic tips while working at home to avoid neck and back pain.

Remote work has its perks, but ergonomics isn’t one of them. 

As the coronavirus pandemic drags on, millions of Americans are still working from home, spending countless (pantless) hours on the couch, hunched over a tiny laptop screen. 

And while it may seem cozy to work from your sofa or bed, you could be setting yourself up for potential musculoskeletal injuries—carpal tunnel, tendonitis, muscle sprain, and lower back and neck pain, to name a few. 

The good news is, there are several ways to create a comfy-yet-functional work set up and prevent long-term damage to your body.

If you’re starting to feel pains of WFH life (read: neck or back pain, swollen legs or feet, or numbness and tingling in the fingers), now is the time to make changes to your workspace.

As ZOOM+Care’s Dr. Michael Lell, DC says, “Taking the time to make little changes like this saves a lot of time and headache in the future. It’s easier to adjust your chair than suffer from daily neck pain.”

Keep scrolling for some chiropractor-approved do’s and don’ts of working at home: 

DON’T hunch over your laptop. 

Doing so for 40+ hours a week can lead to back, shoulder, and neck strain. If you can, use a laptop riser or an external monitor while working.

As a rule of thumb, your eye line should be level with the top of your computer monitor.

If you place your laptop on a riser, consider using a separate mouse and keyboard as well. Your elbows should be bent at 90 degrees while typing—which can be tricky to achieve if your laptop is elevated. 

That reminds us: DO use the 90-degree rule. 

Sitting seems like a tough thing to screw up, but alas—there is a “right” way to sit while working at your computer. 

To ensure proper alignment of your arms and legs while sitting, think 90-90-90. Sitting with a 90-degree angle at the elbows, hips, and knees allows for the least physical strain in a seated position.

DON’T dangle your feet. 

During the workday, try to keep both of your feet flat on the floor as much as you can. 

When you plant your feet on the ground, you’re stable. When you dangle them, you can throw off the arch in your lower back, which can eventually lead to back pain. 

Don’t pull your feet back underneath your chair, either—this puts pressure under your thighs, which restricts blood flow to your lower legs and increases your risk of complications, such as deep vein thrombosis.

If your feet don’t reach the floor, try placing them on a footrest, box, or pile of books. To reduce stress on your lumbar spine, make sure your thighs are parallel to the floor with your hips slightly higher than your knees.

DO incorporate standing.  

Miss your standing desk? It’s no wonder: Working while standing is linked to decreased lower and upper back pain and neck pain. As an added bonus, alternating between sitting and standing can also increase your productivity and focus.

While most of us can’t shell out for high-end office furniture, we can improvise. You can hack together a standing setup with a few boxes or books, or even an ironing board.

If you go DIY with your standing desk, just make sure you pay attention to some basic ergonomic guidelines—namely, your screen’s height. Your monitor should be high enough so that you’re looking straight ahead and not looking down or hunching over to see the screen. 

DO find a supportive chair: 

When it comes to WFH life, you need a sound support system—and by that, we mean a good, sturdy office chair. 

An ideal office chair has adjustable options for height and depth, recline, and lumbar support—but we know not everyone has access to such ergonomic luxuries. 

If you don’t have a chair with built-in lumbar support, you can DIY your way to an ergonomically correct seating situation. 

The first step is to pay attention to how you sit. 

Lean back in your chair so that some of your body weight is supported by the chair back.

If your chair lacks good lower-back support, place a cushion or rolled-up towel behind your lower back. (It’s a slightly less effective substitute for an ergonomic chair, but it’s way better than nothing!)

Many office chairs have built-in neck support, which is something you’re less likely to have at home.

To prevent tightness and pain, try incorporating neck exercises throughout the day.  

Here are three easy ones: 

Chin-to-Chest Stretch.

  • Gently look downward, bringing your head close to your chest until you can feel the stretch in the back of your neck.
  • Hold the stretch for a few seconds, then slowly and release.

Side-to-Side Stretch. 

 Keep your head over your shoulders and make sure your back is straight. Gently turn your head to the right until you feel a stretch in the side of your neck and shoulder. Hold for ten to 15 seconds, then repeat the process to the left.

Side-Tilt Stretch. 

  • Very gently tilt your head toward your right shoulder, as if you’re trying to touch it with your ear. Stop when you feel the stretch. You’re trying to stretch the muscles in your neck, so don’t raise your shoulder to meet your head. 
  • Hold the stretch for five to ten seconds, then return to the start position.
  • Repeat on your left side. 

DON’T use a squishy wrist rest.

They may seem like they’re providing support, but ergonomics experts say that these accessories can increase stress on your wrists. 

Putting anything under your wrist while you work can add compression on the finger flexor tendons and on the median nerve, which can actually up your risk of carpal tunnel syndrome.

DO incorporate movement and stretches into your workday.

Ah, yes. Remember the days when we’d commute to the office? Walk to and from meetings? Take a brisk stroll on our way to pick up lunch, perhaps? Now we’re lucky if we walk to the kitchen a few times a day for a snack. 

It should go without saying, but—even if we’re not in the office, getting off our backsides and moving throughout the day is still important. 

Do small things to keep your body moving throughout the workday. Take phone calls standing up, set an alarm every 30 to 60 seconds to remind you to move, stand up often, take frequent water breaks, and alternate between working standing up and sitting.

Additionally, consider incorporating stretches into your daily routine. 

Jennifer Naughton, a Doctor of Physical Therapy here at ZOOM+Care, has a few recommendations.

First up is a pectoral stretch—a simple exercise that can help make it easier for you to attain and maintain proper posture.

Towel Chest Stretch. 

  • Start by grabbing a towel or a strap. 
  • Stand up straight, paying close attention to your posture. Hold the towel or strap behind your back.
  • Slowly lift the towel behind you, holding the ends with both hands.
  • Use the towel to pull your shoulders into extension. You should feel a stretch in the front of your chest. Squeeze the shoulder blades together to maximize the stretch.
  • Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds, and then relax.
  • Repeat 2-3 times.

Another stretch Dr. Naughton recommends for folks working from home is a hip flexor stretch. 

Lunging Hip Flexor Stretch 

  • Start on a soft surface, like a yoga mat or carpet.
  • Next, kneel on your left knee. Place your right foot flat on the floor in front of you with your knee bent.
  • Lean forward, stretching your left hip toward the floor.
  • Squeeze the muscles in your buttocks. This will allow you to stretch your hip flexor even more!
  • Hold this position for 30 seconds. 
  • Switch sides, then repeat. 

DO limit the time spent working on your couch or bed. 

We know they’re super cozy, but the couch and bed are among the worst places to work. 

A sofa might feel comfy initially, but it can lead to pain in your lower back and neck. That’s because sitting on a couch encourages you to slump, round your shoulders, and put your head forward—which puts a lot more strain on your body.

While the couch is not your WFH friend, a bed is even worse. Why?

Unless you sit on the edge of your bed with your feet flat on the floor, you either have to cross your legs or extend them horizontally, using them as support for your laptop. That’s way too low for optimal screen viewing, causing you to slump and hunch over. 

If your bed is your only option, put a pillow behind your back to rest against the headboard, then put your laptop on a cushion in your lap. 

Are you starting to feel the pains of working from home? Our Bodyworks teams have your back. We offer same-day Physical Therapy, Chiropractic, and Medical Message visits. Schedule today.  

Here’s What You Need to Know about Getting a Flu Shot during a Pandemic

What you need to know about getting a flu shot while COVID is still happening.

With COVID-19 still making daily headlines, flu season may seem insignificant, small, and far away.

But trust us when we say—it’s coming, and it’s more important than ever to prepare for it. 

With a potential “twindemic” looming, health experts urge people to get a flu shot ASAP. Not only can getting vaccinated help preserve hospital beds, staff, and medical resources, but it can help your year suck a little bit less. (Seriously, who wants to add “catching the flu” to the list of reasons why 2020 can just see itself out?)

Since this flu season is unlike any other, you probably have all kinds of questions—and we’re here to answer them. Here’s what you need to know about getting vaccinated during a global pandemic. 

The flu and COVID-19 are basically the same, right?

COVID-19 and the flu are respiratory viruses, and they have similar symptoms. However, the two illnesses are very different.

While both cause fatigue, coughing, and fever, COVID-19 can have a wide range of symptoms, including loss of smell and severe breathing problems. 

Statistically, COVID-19 is more deadly than the flu. The flu causes an average of 38,000 deaths each year in the U.S. In comparison, there have been over 200,000 deaths related to COVID-19 in the US along so far.

Why is the flu shot so important this year? 

There are a couple of (very) good reasons to get your flu shot this year, for both personal and public health reasons. 

Let’s start with the personal. Because different viruses cause the flu and COVID-19, there’s a possibility of co-infection. Yes—that means you can have both at the same time. 

Information on COVID‐19 and influenza co-infection is limited, and public health experts don’t know how dangerous it may be. But, chances are, it’s not great.

“Getting a flu shot lowers the chances you’ll get influenza—and if you do, it will most likely be a milder infection,” says ZOOM+Care CMO, Dr. Vanderlip. “We have no idea what co-infection with flu and COVID would be like, but a flu vaccine reduces your chances of finding out. Plus, getting vaccinated helps limit the spread of coronavirus by preventing extra trips to the doctor.” 

Another reason to get the jab? If we can prevent people from catching the flu, we can ease the burden on our healthcare system. That way, our hospitals are free and clear to help COVID-19 patients.

I’ve heard it’s unsafe to get the flu shot this year. Is that true? 

The flu isn’t probably isn’t your biggest worry right now, and that’s understandable. We know it’s tempting to avoid the doctor’s office for fear of COVID-19, but getting your flu shot is still important. 

From extra cleaning precautions to strict social distancing measures, doctors are taking extra precautions to keep people safe while getting their flu shot. 

“When you schedule a flu shot at Zoom, you’re in and out in five minutes, and you have minimal contact with others during your visit,” says Dr. Mark Zeiter, ZOOM+Care’s Medical Director of Acute Care Services.  “We also ask that patients schedule ahead, which means the waiting room is empty or doesn’t even exist.” 

We also ask that patients wear masks during their visit, and follow all social distancing guidelines.

One important thing to note: Don’t get the flu shot if you’ve been exposed to someone with COVID-19 or are currently experiencing symptoms. In that case, wait until you’re ten days symptom-free or have a negative COVID-19 test.

Can the flu shot protect me from COVID-19?

The flu and COVID-19 are different illnesses, so the flu shot won’t protect you against the coronavirus. That said, getting vaccinated has many benefits. 

“For starters, the flu shot can help prevent unnecessary trips to the doctor,” says Dr. Vanderlip.  

That’s important since more trips to the doctor mean more risk of being exposed to COVID-19.

 “The vaccine can also reduce the severity of the flu if you do happen to become infected. Our flu shot protects against four strains of the flu virus.” Vanderlip adds. 

According to Dr. Mark Zeiter, flu vaccine can have long-term health benefits, too.

 “There is evidence that flu vaccination offers a protective effect against Alzheimer’s disease. The more years you get the flu shot, the less likely you are to get Alzheimer’s, says Zeitzer. “There is also evidence that the more years you get the flu vaccination, the less likely you are to get the flu overall—so there is a cumulative effect.” 

Will the flu shot increase my risk of getting COVID-19? 

No. The two diseases are different, so being immunized for one does not make you more vulnerable to the other. There’s no evidence connecting the flu shot, or other vaccines, with an increased risk of contracting COVID-19.

Will wearing a mask and practicing social distancing help stop the spread of the flu? 

The pandemic has underscored the importance of handwashing, sanitizing, masking, and social distancing—measures which also curb the spread of flu. According to CDC director Robert Redfield, if the public continues to follow health experts’ advice, we could have the “best flu season” to date.

Just take a look at the Southern Hemisphere. Australia is a good predictor of our flu season, and this year, there were just over 21,000 laboratory-confirmed influenza cases. Last year in the same period, there were over 247,000. Experts credit extra precautions, such as masking, social distancing, sanitizing, and good vaccination rate for the mild flu season in the Southern Hemisphere. 

In other words, keep wearing your mask, washing your hands, and get your flu shot! 

Can I get the vaccine at any time? 

You can, but we don’t recommend waiting. 

“Now is the time to get the flu shot, because we don’t know when the flu wave will be coming,” says Dr. Vanderlip. 

Seasonal flu outbreaks can start in October, so it’s best to get your flu shot ASAP. 

Have concerns about the safety and efficacy of the flu shot? Here are 7 common myths—and facts to debunk them. If you’re ready to give flu season your best shot, schedule a 5-minute flu shot now.

Getting Your Flu Shot Is More Important Now Than Ever. Here’s Why.

Schedule your 5-minute flu shot on our phone or mobile app.
Go to zoomcare.com to schedule your 5-minute flu shot today.

During a typical year, many of us are likely to put off, neglect, or outright refuse to get our flu shots. Now, with COVID-19 coursing through the country, Americans are feeling more reluctant than ever to visit crowded pharmacies and doctors’ offices. 

But health officials say that 2020 really isn’t the year to skip your shot—and a big reason is the coronavirus.

While the flu is notoriously unpredictable, influenza activity typically starts to increase in October. With COVID-19 not yet under control, we could be looking at the collision of two potentially deadly viruses this fall. (Or, as some are calling it—a “twindemic.”) 

In the words of CDC Director Robert R. Redfield: “This fall, nothing can be more important than to try to increase the American public’s decision to embrace the flu vaccine with confidence.”

Why are flu shots so crucial this year? 

For starters, flu shots can cut down on the number of trips people take to the doctor. If someone gets sick with the flu and has to go to the hospital or doctor’s office, they run a higher risk of being exposed to someone infected with COVID-19.

“Because influenza and COVID-19 are both respiratory illnesses, they have similar symptoms,” says ZOOM+Care CMO, Dr. Erik Vanderlip. “Some people may think they have COVID this fall, but really, they have the flu. The flu shot can help prevent unnecessary trips to the doctor, and reduce the severity of the flu, if you do happen to become infected.”

Another reason to get vaccinated is to prevent additional strain on our healthcare system.

It’s usual for hospitals to see a bump in admissions due to influenza. This seasonal rise, combined with coronavirus, could quickly overwhelm our healthcare system. And because flu and COVID-19 are both respiratory viruses, doctors treat them with the same limited medical equipment and supplies, including ventilators.

With healthcare facilities already struggling to accommodate COVID-19 patients, they may not be able to handle the additional influx of flu cases. Getting your flu shot can help ease the burden on the healthcare system and preserve life-saving resources.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the CDC warns of the possibility of co-infection—meaning, having flu and COVID-19 simultaneously. Health experts are still studying how common this occurrence is, but contracting COVID-19 on top of the flu could prove devastating for a patient.

“Getting a flu shot lowers the chances you’ll get influenza—and if you do, it will most likely be a milder infection,” says ZOOM+Care CMO, Dr. Vanderlip. “We have no idea what co-infection with flu and COVID would be like, but a flu vaccine reduces your chances of finding out. Plus, it helps limit the spread of coronavirus by preventing extra trips to the doctor.”

Keep calm and get your flu shot on.

If all of this sounds terrifying, don’t panic! Just get your flu shot, and encourage your friends and family to do the same. If enough of the U.S. population gets vaccinated—hopefully, more than the 45% who did last flu season—we could head off a nightmare scenario in the coming months. 

Even more good news? The pandemic has underscored the importance of handwashing, sanitizing, masking, and social distancing—measures which also curb the spread of flu. So, if the public continues to follow the advice of health experts and gets vaccinated for the flu, we could have the “best flu season” to date, according to Redfield. 

It’s not too early to get a flu shot. 

Although flu season can last into May and beyond, the CDC recommends getting vaccinated sooner rather than later. That’s because it can take two weeks for your body to develop antibodies to protect you against the virus. 

To try and ward off a twindemic as flu season approaches, healthcare providers, ZOOM+Care included, have made the vaccine available earlier than usual this year. 

“Now is the time to get the flu shot, because we don’t know when the flu wave will be coming,”  says Dr. Vanderlip. 

Who should be vaccinated? 

No one is immune to the flu, which is why everyone over the age of six months should consider getting vaccinated. 

This is especially true for people in high-risk categories, like:

  • Young children ages five and under
  • Aldults 65+ 
  • Women who are pregnant, postpartum, or nursing 
  • People with long-term health conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease.

Little pinch. Big payoff. For your best shot at a flu-free fall and winter, get vaccinated at any of our neighborhood clinics today

6 Flu Shot Myths, Busted

It’s nearly fall, which means two things: pumpkin spice lattes (yay?) and flu season (boo!). While the CDC recommends that everyone six months and older get the flu shot, less than half of Americans will heed this advice. In fact, during the 2018-2019 flu season, a mere 45% of adults were vaccinated. 

The flu shot is by far the best way to protect against this potentially deadly infection—so why do so many people doubt its safety and efficacy? The answer to that question lies in myth and misinformation. Many of the rumored side effects (like that the shot can give you the flu) are simply untrue. 

We’d like to clear the air about this much-maligned vaccine, but—before we bust some myths—we want to make our stance on vaccines clear. While ZOOM+Care strongly advocates for vaccination, we believe in listening to patients’ perspectives first and foremost. We want to be a non-judgmental source of knowledge, offering evidence-based information about immunizations. 

If you have concerns about the safety and efficacy of the flu shot, here are six common myths—and facts to debunk them. 

Myth #1: The Flu Shot Gives You the Flu 

This is perhaps the most pervasive myth about the flu shot, and it endures for a reason: many people report feeling unwell after receiving the vaccine. 

Because the flu shot is made from dead viruses, it cannot (repeat, cannot) give you the flu. However, it can trigger an immune response from your body—which may cause you to experience mild, flu-like symptoms. (I.e., achy muscles, soreness, redness at the injection site, or a low-grade fever.) 

It’s important to note: while irritation around the injection site is common, only 1 to 2 percent of people who get the flu shot will have fever as a side effect. 

Myth #2: The Flu Shot Doesn’t Work 

The effectiveness of flu shots indeed varies from season to season, it’s true. 

Like any viral infection, the flu rapidly mutates and creates new strains every year—and the vaccine can’t protect you from all of them. However, that doesn’t mean the flu shot doesn’t work. In the 2017-2018 flu season, the vaccine reduced the risk of illness by around 47%, according to the CDC. 

The flu shot’s effectiveness varies by population, too. For instance, the vaccine tends to be less effective at protecting the elderly. However, even though elderly people who are immunized may still get sick, they’ll likely get less sick. For many older folks, the flu vaccine can be the difference between a trip to the doctor and a trip to the hospital.

Myth #3: Healthy People Don’t Need the Flu Shot 

We hate to break it to you, but sometimes, even the strongest immune system falls victim to the flu. No one (except maybe Superman) is invulnerable to the virus—and getting vaccinated is always your best bet at staying protected. 

Even if you never, ever get the flu, it’s still a good idea to get a flu shot—and doing so could save lives. While you may not develop flu symptoms yourself, you can still carry the virus and pass it on to those more vulnerable. Almost anywhere you go, you can come in contact with a cancer patient on chemotherapy, a newborn infant, or someone with asthma, diabetes, or heart disease. All are especially at risk of serious complications (or even death) from the flu.

Myth #4: You Don’t Need the Flu Shot Every Year 

The bad news? Even if you got a flu shot last year, you’ll need it again this year. That’s because the virus rapidly mutates, rendering the previous year’s vaccine partially or completely useless. 

The good news is, scientists and researchers are constantly updating the vaccination so it’s effective against the strains they predict will be most common during flu season.

Myth #5: Pregnant Women Shouldn’t Get the Flu Vaccine

When you’re pregnant, you want to do everything you can to ensure your baby is healthy. Most expectant mothers are very careful about what they put into their bodies, and the flu shot is no exception.

As the busy flu season approaches, we have good news for pregnant women: not only is it safe for them to get the flu shot, but it’s especially beneficial for them to do so. When you’re expecting, your immune system is taxed. That means you’re more likely to get sick (and really sick), putting you at higher risk for flu-related complications. The flu can be a deadly disease for pregnant women, and the vaccine is your best bet at preventing it. 

Myth #6: The Vaccine is Poisonous

We’ll be real: some of the ingredients in the flu vaccine sound a little suspect. (Formaldehyde? Aluminum salts?) However, the myth that the flu shot is “poisonous” is far more dangerous than any of its additives. 

While the vaccine does contain small traces of ingredients that would be poisonous in large doses, research overwhelmingly shows that these additives are safe in the trace amounts contained in flu shots. All the ingredients are essential in either making the vaccine, triggering the body to develop immunity, or in ensuring that the final product is safe and effective. 

One thing is for certain: when it comes to the flu vaccine, the rewards far outweigh the risks. For your best shot at a flu-free winter, get vaccinated at any of our neighborhood clinics.

Have a Vagina? Here are 5 Reasons to See a Zoom Specialist

ZOOM+Care women's health and vaginal health.

From chugging cranberry juice to soaking tampons in yogurt, people have been treating common vaginal conditions at home since—well, forever. And while it’s tempting to put regular health checks on hold during COVID and DIY a diagnosis, sometimes, cranberry juice won’t cut it. 

Sometimes, you need professional help. (Also, putting food in your vagina probably isn’t the best idea—but we’ll get to that later.)

So, when these five issues crop up, put down the yogurt, walk away from the cranberry juice, and seek professional help ASAP. 

#1. You’re bleeding, but you’re not on your period. 

Spotting between periods is pretty typical for vagina-havers, especially if you’re on the pill. However, spotting for more than a few days or bleeding heavily between periods could mean something is wrong. 

Irregular bleeding can be a sign of a pelvic infection, cysts, fibroids, polyps, hormonal imbalances, endometriosis, a thyroid disorder, STI, or in rare cases, gynecological cancer.

If left untreated, these conditions can escalate and even affect your reproductive health. If you’re experiencing any of the above, it’s a good idea to check in with a healthcare provider pronto. 

#2. Your period is super painful. 

Cramps happen, but they shouldn’t leave you feeling incapacitated. If period pain is interfering with your ability to perform daily tasks, it could be a sign that something is wrong. 

So, how do you know if your cramps are “normal?” Here are a few things to look out for:

“Normal” cramps are relatively easy to treat with over-the-counter pain meds like ibuprofen. They usually start at the beginning of your period and last for two to four days. If you’re having intense cramps that linger and exceed your usual period pain, it’s probably time to talk to a provider. 

Never had cramps before? Period pain that starts suddenly later in life, or intensifies over time, can signify a benign tumor called a uterine fibroid. Sudden cramping or pelvic pain may also indicate infection, which, if left untreated, can damage the pelvic organs and lead to infertility.

Even if there’s nothing unusual about your cramping, don’t feel shy about talking to a provider. Most period pain is treatable, and there’s no reason to put your life on hold during your period.

#3. Something smells…off. 

Regular discharge—clear, odorless stuff you see in your underwear—is normal and healthy. The vagina is self-cleaning (kind of like an oven), and vaginal discharge keeps it healthy by getting rid of dead cells and bacteria.

Slight changes in your vaginal discharge are no cause for alarm. What’s more concerning is a sudden, strong odor or fishy smell, especially when accompanied by a change in discharge color, itchiness, pain, or irritation. These symptoms can signal infection—such as a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis—or STIs like gonorrhea or trichomoniasis.

Oh, and about those yeast infections. People often tout yogurt as a more natural way of treating them, but we don’t recommend it. Bacteria and yeast thrive in warm, moist places, so the old “soaking a tampon in yogurt” trick could cause infection rather than fight it. 

We know DIY options are temping during COVID, but—if you think you might have a yeast infection—we recommend getting it checked out by a doctor. You can even talk to one of our Women’s Health providers from the safety and comfort of your home. 

#4. You’re experiencing pain during sex. 

Pain during sex is surprisingly common. Sometimes, it’s caused by something situational, like lack of lubricant or an awkward position. However, painful sex may also be a sign that something’s going on internally. 

Pay attention to the kind of pain you’re experiencing. A sudden, sharp pain could indicate a ruptured ovarian cyst, while deep pain can signal endometriosis. Burning, stinging, itching, or rawness around the vagina can be a symptom of a condition called vulvodynia, or chronic pain of the vulva.

STIs or other infections can cause inflammation of the cervix, which also makes sex painful. 

Regardless of its origin, don’t hesitate to talk to a provider if you’re experiencing pain during sex. Sex is supposed to be pleasurable, and you deserve to enjoy it. 

#5. You want to switch up your birth control. 

Finding the right birth control can take some trial and error.  If your current method is causing unwanted side effects or isn’t the right fit for your lifestyle, our Women’s Health providers can talk you through your options. There’s no reason to settle for a method that’s making you miserable with so many different kinds of contraception out there. For example, if you constantly forget to take your pill, you might want to chat with your doc about a more permanent method, such as IUD or implant. 


WE GET IT—IT’S TEMPTING TO PUT OFF REGULAR HEALTH CHECKS DURING COVID-19. IF YOU WANT TO TALK TO A CARING PROFESSIONAL FROM THE COMFORT OF HOME, WE OFFER WOMEN’S HEALTH VISITS THROUGH VIDEOCARE™. YOU CAN ALSO SEE A PROVIDER IN-PERSON, DEPENDING ON YOUR COMFORT LEVEL.

#TogetherWeZoom: Get to Know Mental Health Provider Ebony Blackmon Humphrey

ZOOM+Care Mental Health doctor Dr. Ebony Blackmon Humphrey
As a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner for ZOOM+Care, Dr. Ebony Blackmon Humphrey helps patients seeking mental health services at our Bellevue & 4th Street clinic.

A lot has been said about our business model, our proprietary technology, and our innovative approach to care. But make no mistake: Our people are the most important component of our success. Always willing to go the extra mile for our patients, this big-hearted group of professionals is what makes us…well, zoom! Our monthly employee spotlight is dedicated to celebrating the incredible work our employees do inside of ZOOM+Care—and the lives they lead outside it.

Last December, a long-held goal of ours was finally realized: We launched ZOOM+Care Mental Health in Seattle.

Similarly to Oregon, patients seeking mental-health treatment in Washington can face long wait times and limited options. Our Bellevue & 4th Street Clinic helps fill a critical need by providing quality, accessible mental healthcare to East Seattle residents.

Leading the charge at Bellevue & 4th is Dr. Ebony Blackmon Humphrey: An experienced Doctor of Nursing Practice and Psychiatric Mental Health NP. (Officially, her title is DNP ARNP PMHNP-BC. Say that tens times fast!)

Keep reading to learn more about Ebony’s passion for helping others, her advice for prospective ZOOM+Care candidates, and her proudest moment on the job so far.

What inspires you most about your work?

My spirituality is the deepest part of me. It is my internal motivation. It helps me give all of myself clinically to each person trusting me to make sense of their story. I value, metaphorically the books called “people” I have read and will continue to read on my journey. Their stories mean everything to me.

What advice do you have for prospective candidates?

Love what you do, as people from all walks of life are trusting you to make sense of their life’s artwork. Stare at their life’s painting and help them understand that all of the markings are not permanent. Some markings will fade away in conversation, others with medication, but most of them will become less meaningful with time.

What are three words you would use to describe ZOOM+Care?

Cutting-edge, daring, and impactful.

What is your favorite Thing about our approach to care?

Zoom’s presence inside local communities makes care local and accessible.

What is your proudest moment at ZOOM+Care?

Anytime a patient returns to tell me about what has changed in their life for the better.

Do you enjoy helping others on their journey to better health? We’re hiring!