Want to get a child interested in seeing a doctor? Show him or her a kiosk.
It's not as crazy as it sounds, says Andrew Hertz, MD, a pediatrician with Cleveland-based University Hospitals. The high-tech cubicles are comfy, they're packed with cool gadgetry, and the doctor is right there on a video screen, like something out of Star Wars. That makes kiosks much more inviting to children than the crowded waiting room in a doctor's office or the controlled chaos of an emergency department waiting room.
[See also: What kiosks offer that online telehealth cannot]
Hertz knows what he's talking about. He's been working with HealthSpot kiosks for more than two years, after using a Medicare/Medicaid Health Innovation Award to push telemedicine into some of the more underserved parts of the city. With the 40-square-foot kiosks, he says, he's seeing a tremendous uptake in parents and children.
"Patient experience is extremely high," he says. And that translates to a better rapport between the patient and the doctor, and quite possibly a better clinical outcome as well.
Hertz's patients are just one group of a much larger population that Ohio-based HealthSpot hopes to entice. Late last month, the company opened kiosks in 25 Rite Aid pharmacies across Ohio. CEO Steve Cashman says the partnership with the nation's third largest pharmacy (4,600 locations in 31 states and the District of Colombia) is a big deal for HealthSpot, which is looking to make the kiosk a common ingredient in integrated care delivery.
[See also: Kiosks: An mHealth entry point for providers]
"It (the pharmacy) is the destination 99 percent of the time when we have an illness," he says.
Cashman is a tireless promoter of the kiosk over other forms of remote care, like mobile vans, urgent care clinics and online telemedicine platforms, and he sees them as much more than triage booths for minor emergencies. Kiosks should be able to handle as much as a third of all follow-up healthcare visits, he says.
"Many of the (pharmacy) chains are looking at reinventing the healthcare model," he says, "and health providers are realizing that they have to reinvent their model to be more attractive to the patient. This is much more efficient for them. It would be so easy to say, 'I'm going to do my follow-up appointment at the pharmacy.'"
"What we have found is that doctors' desire to deliver remote care is strong," Cashman adds. "We've had a lot of medical communities come to the table," ranging from the Cleveland Clinic and the Mayo Clinic to Miami Children's Hospital.
Payers are also seeing value in kiosks, he says. In Ohio alone, 14 different health plans are reimbursing for kiosk-based care. "They don't want to pay for services that don't solve problems," he says.
Hertz sees those problems being solved. He estimates that 75 percent of his pediatric patients would end up in an emergency room if they didn't have access to a HealthSpot kiosk, and just as many probably wouldn't get the follow-up care they'd need after that ER visit. That might lead to more serious (and expensive) healthcare issues down the road.
The biggest challenge to kiosks at this time may be consumer perception. A recent TechnologyAdvice survey of about 500 American adults found that only 7.5 percent would be comfortable using a kiosk in a retail setting, while 7 percent said they'd use one if it were available at work.
Hertz says he has on-site doctors first meet with his children and their parents, then introduce them to the kiosk. And with positioning kiosks in pharmacies, Cashman is hoping the curiosity factor will help – you're already there buying cough syrup or aspirin or getting a prescription filled, so why not see what the kiosk has to offer?
"It's an education process, creating a comfort level," he says.
And you can't write a prescription for that.