Telemedicine Is The Future Of Health Care

(Photo used by permission from American Well)

Campbell North Contributor
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Between getting stuck in the waiting room and being probed with metal objects, a visit to the doctor’s office is rarely an enjoyable experience. Telemedicine is quickly changing that, becoming health care’s 21st century hero.

One of greatest advancements in telemedicine is the development of telemedicine kiosks.

Telemedicine kiosks are soundproof structures with large screens stationed inside, according to Amanda Guisbond, communications director for American Well — a company that creates telemedicine technology.

The screen has a video interface, so that the patient can communicate by video with a physician without ever needing to schedule an in-office appointment. Patients have discretion in choosing the physician in their provider network from a list, which includes biographical information of each doctor.

The kiosk is also equipped with peripheral biometrics tools that can take your temperature and measure your blood pressure.

“There are also additional peripheral devices, like a digital stethoscope or digital otoscope, which allows for comprehensive examination and diagnostics,” said Gary Capistrant, chief policy officer at the American Telemedicine Association.

After a session, the physician can send prescriptions to pharmacies for the patient to pick up, and also provide a PDF with notes from the session.

Telemedicine kiosks centralize the delivery of health care. Instead of having to schedule an appointment or travel to an urgent care clinic, patients can visit these telemedicine kiosk remotely to address anything under the umbrella of routine primary care issues — from laryngitis to pink eye — and follow-up visits after a surgery.

Not only do they provide greater convenience, but the kiosks also are more cost-effective. A patient typically pays $15 for a telemedicine session — less than it would cost to visit a doctor’s office with insurance, at least three times less than an urgent care visit, and significantly less than an emergency room visit, according to Kaiser Health News.

These kiosk are currently being championed in the workplace. Thousands of employers have begun to install them in the office for company use, according to American Well. Jet Blue Airways is planning to install a kiosk at JFK Airport in New York City for their employees in the upcoming year.

Providing remote care translates into less time and productivity lost to traveling and from waiting rooms.

Employers also see financial gains by investing in the technology. Depending on related cost-savings and the companies insurance plan, some employees don’t even have to pay the $15 fee.

Insurance companies are starting to jump on the trend as well. More health insurers, including Anthem, Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield and UnitedHealthcare, are offering coverage for telemedicine and telehealth services.

Telehealth is the catchall category for health care that is provided via communication technologies with a purpose to enhance care and share information. Despite being the precursor to telemedicine kiosks, telehealth mobile apps are growing in popularity just as quickly.

Mobile apps function essentially the same was as kiosks. For example, the American Well mobile app lets you pick a physician, wait five minutes while the physician reads your patient history, and then go through your symptoms, diagnosis and treatment options in a face-to-face discussion. A PDF is sent with notes from the visit and prescription instructions.

These apps are vital because they offer 24/7 care. According to Guisbond, one of the largest demographics using AmWell’s mobile app are first-time parents who wake up in middle of the night to a sick baby.

These apps also provide care to patients living in rural areas who might not otherwise have access to certain specialists.

“This is simply a way of delivering the health care services that are already provided in more convenient form,” said Capistrant.

The future of telehealth and telemedicine extends beyond the world of physical ailments. It is expected that telemedicine kiosks will provide behavioral health care — from psychology to dietary health.