A new option that offers a face-to-face teleconference visit with a doctor is popping up in neighborhood drugstores and grocery stores. These telemedicine healthcare kiosks are a budget-friendly alternative to the walk-in clinics run by drugstore pharmacies.
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“Telemedicine kiosks are currently being used to diagnose and treat simple, acute illnesses, such as colds and flu, cough and eye irritation,” says Theresa Lash-Ritter, MD, Medical Director of Cleveland Clinic’s Urgent Care and Express Care clinics.
How telemedicine kiosks work
When you arrive at the kiosk, you’ll enter your demographic information and an attendant will check you in. Inside the kiosk, the attendant will take your vital signs, who will utilize the devices inside.
“Then you’ll be taken inside the booth where you’ll have an audiovisual visit with a physician, a nurse practitioner or a physician assistant,” says Dr. Lash-Ritter. There’s a large screen inside the kiosk, so you’ll be face-to-face with the provider.”
What to expect during your exam
In addition to having a discussion with the provider, you may need a “virtual” physical examination. “The provider will control the instruments, so if, for example, the doctor wants to look in your ear, a panel will drop that contains the correct instrument,” Dr. Lash-Ritter says.
The doctor will explain how you should place the instrument so that he or she can see inside your ear. There are also instruments for examining your eyes or checking your oxygen level, and a stethoscope for listening to your heart and lungs.
What about privacy?
“The kiosks are absolutely secure and private,” says Dr. Lash-Ritter. “If you need help, you can ask the attendant to come in, but otherwise, you’ll be alone inside the booth. There’s also a white noise inside the booth so anyone standing right outside would not be able to hear your conversation with the provider.”
How the kiosks are cleaned and sanitized
After each visit, the attendant completely sanitizes the entire kiosk, changes the tips on any instruments that were used during the visit and cleans the instruments.
“There’s also a UV light inside the kiosk that is used to sterilize the environment,” Dr. Lash-Ritter says.
The cost of a visit
Telemedicine kiosks accept health insurance payments, but even if you’re not insured, they might be an affordable care option. Using this service tends to be much less expensive than a typical visit to a hospital emergency department.
Convenience is the key
The telemedicine kiosks are placed in drugstores and grocery stores for your convenience. “We’re trying to meet patients where they’re at in their everyday lives,” says Dr. Lash-Ritter. “When people are out running errands or shopping, the kiosks are convenient for them.”
Having the kiosks in drugstores can also be handy due to the immediate availability of a pharmacy for filling prescriptions. Even so, the provider can send your prescriptions to any pharmacy, so there’s no pressure to use the one at the store you’re in.
What patients are saying
“One of the biggest concerns my patients have had with the telemedicine kiosks is they’re afraid the visit will be robotic and impersonal,” Dr. Lash-Ritter says. “But I sometimes find I’m able to make better eye contact with my patients during AV conferencing than I am in a regular exam room.”