How Telehealth is Opening Doors for Healthcare


Kiosks and telehealth providing more options for patients but also doctors.

At a supermarket recently I used a kiosk to check health indicators like blood pressure and body mass index to keep pulse on how I was doing healthwise. The higi kiosk, much like the one in this photo, was placed near the pharmacy, so the kiosk made for good use of time as well if one were waiting to see a pharmacist.

higi health kiosk

Photo: Built in Chicago

The Chicago startup has raised funding from the likes of BlueCross BlueShield Venture Partners. One of the attractive aspects that interested BlueCross and its advisers, according to Crain’s, is how the kiosks integrate into the normal workflow of the consumer, whether at the pharmacy, retailer or on their mobile phone.

Healthcare services have become more distributed across retail and other channels the last decade, as patients have opted to use them for some needs. CVS with its MinuteClinic services, now also at some Target stores, Walgreens and others have made getting a diagnosis or advice easier. One can get vaccinated for the flu, but also immunizations, screening for disease or a prescription when medically appropriate.

telehealth growth projectionMeanwhile, some benefit managers and patients are turning to telehealth – one can download a mobile app, sign up, select a licensed physician or provider and connect by video in minutes to discuss a medical need. There’s even an app that lets you chat with a robot, GYANT, if you prefer a glimpse at some possible causes for symptoms. Apps using automation may face some regulatory hurdles in expanding their services, TechCrunch has noted, but they are providing another means for people to understand and manage their health. Wearable tech like those of Nike and Fitbit have also provided users a means to track progress on health or fitness objectives.

Globally, according to London-based IHS Markit, the telehealth market is set to swell tenfold by 2018 from just several years ago. Worldwide revenue for telehealth devices and services is estimated to be $4.5 billion, up from $440.6 million in 2013.

Part of the growth in the U.S. is from healthcare managers and providers seeking ways to lower the cost of healthcare while meeting quality care objectives. The Cleveland Clinic and other hospitals note that wellness and prevention are among care objectives stressed in value-based care to help reduce illnesses and expensive procedures. And in a recent survey of large employers, 96% expected to make telehealth services available to employees in 2018.

service example

Photo: Teladoc

Telehealth services are also connecting patients with mental health professionals including therapists. Providing care remotely can give doctors more reach and access to patients, including those who want more convenience, don’t have easy access to transportation or in rural areas. The services give their practitioners a flexible work option from home, and while fees for an online visit vary, patients can make payment conveniently from the app. More insurance companies as well as employers are providing coverage for telehealth visits; one can check with the particular service provider on the consultation fee and payment.

American Well’s Amwell telemedicine service notes that one can now have a consultation with a doctor online in 49 states and nutritionists nationwide.

map on online doctor visits

Image credit: Amwell

As for Arkansas, it has been working on further telehealth rules, according to the blog of telehealth service provider, MeMD. Although, the University of Arkansas for Medical Science (UAMS) has been one of the most active users of telemedicine in the state. To make postpartum doctor visits easier for mothers, the hospital’s doctors offer some visits via smartphone. “This made it 3 thousand times easier,” said a mom in this interview.
 
online doctor visit

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