If you you've been laboring under the impression that telemedicine is something that primarily applies to radiologists and a few surgeons who operate robots, then you probably haven't talked to Micheal Sharp, the communications director at TelaCare. If you do, he'll tell you all about the telemedicine kiosks that TelaCare manufactures. From wall-mounted stations in private rooms to soundproof structures with enough medical equipment inside to make a doctor on the Starship Enterprise jealous, kiosks are being installed in shopping malls, office buildings, and pharmacies across the United States as part of the newest generation of telemedicine innovation. You see, TelaCare has found a way to make visiting the doctor convenient and, remarkably, more affordable.
Here is how it works
Rather than scheduling an appointment at a doctor's office or making their way to the local urgent care center, patients simply walk in to a telemedicine kiosk to communicate with a health care provider and get almost instantaneous feedback regarding everything from coughs and colds to pink-eye and follow-ups after surgery.
If a patients needs to "visit" a doctor, they simply go to a kiosk at their local shopping center or perhaps just down the hall from their cubicle at work. Inside of the private structure, they can chat with a doctor on a large flat screen. The doctor and patient may be separated by hundreds of miles, but that doesn't stop the doctor from collecting a history and doing a physical exam. Thanks to digital otoscopes, digital stethoscopes, and an array of other sensors, primary care physicians can collect all of the information they need to make a decision about the next steps in a patient's workup. When they are done, they simply email a PDF of the visit to the patient and send any prescriptions to the patient's local pharmacy. It is no different than sitting face to face with the doctor, except of course that it is more convenient and you don't have to worry about picking up the latest virus that might be lingering in the waiting room.
Perhaps more appealing than the convenience (and avoiding those darned viruses), however, is the affordability of telemedicine kiosks. According to Dennis Peacock, the Chief Technology Office at TelaCare kiosks consultations cost a bit less than what a typical visit to an office would cost. They are three times cheaper than an urgent care visit and vastly less expensive than a trip to the emergency room. They are so affordable, in fact, that some businesses that have installed them have waved co-pays for employees that use the kiosks.
When you stop and think about it, it makes sense that kiosks are more affordable. They take up space in buildings that already need to be heated and cooled and lit. Doctors don't have the upkeep of an office or the need for expensive staff. They simply need an Internet connection and a comfortable chair at home. To add to the savings, and to further highlight why telemedicine kiosks are a big hit with a lot of employers, patients do not lose time traveling to and from appointments. That means improved productivity due to less time off.
Insurance companies have started to see the benefits of telemedicine kiosks as well. Health insurers like Anthem, Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield, and United Healthcare are offering coverage for telemedicine services. As Dennis Peakcock puts it, "this is simply a way of delivering health care services, which already provided, in a more convenient form."
The next frontier in telemedicine is behavioral health. Physical health is almost old hat for companies like TelaCare. In the future, these kiosks will be available for everything from psychology encounters to dietary consultations, physical therapy, and basic obstetric care. It may not be that long before you can meet nearly all of your medical needs by stepping in to a kiosk at work in between your power lunch and your meeting with corporate.
Who is TelaCare?
Founded in 2009, TelaCare is a leading telemedicine provider of online and on-demand healthcare delivery services and software that benefit patients, hospitals, employers, payers, physician practice groups and accountable care organizations.
Our cloud-based Virtual Medical Office software platform makes it possible for patients, medical professionals and plan administrators to collaborate seamlessly and securely via voice, video, email and mobile devices. Payers and providers can also utilize the HIPAA-compliant system to collect and share clinical data from patient medical records, lab results and in-home biometric devices for real-time risk assessments, wellness advice, diagnosis and treatment.
We started in 2009 with a vision of tackling the three biggest issues in healthcare:
Patients are waiting days, even months, for a doctor’s appointment. Many others use the ER for minor issues. TelaCare takes this problem head-on by providing 24/7/365 access to care anytime, anywhere.
Amidst premiums, healthcare costs, and out-of-pocket expenses rising at twice the rate of inflation, TelaCare offers care at a fraction of the cost of urgent care and ER visits, saving everyone money.
Faster access and lower costs don’t come at the expense of quality. We use the strictest quality processes and clinical protocols for our national network of U.S. board-certified physicians.