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I'll Take My Care To Go

By Kim Bellard, February 17, 2014

I have to admit that when fast food restaurants first got into drive-throughs, I didn’t really see the point.  Well, I missed that one: they now do 60-70% of their business via the drive-through, changing the architecture, menu, and consumer expectations of the fast food industry along the way.  Aside from pharmacies, I haven’t seen drive-throughs impact health care yet, but one doesn’t have to be much of a seer to recognize that that the need to actually visit providers’ offices for health care is quickly being whittled away.

Let’s start with kiosks, which are increasingly providing quick alternatives for some services that used to require consumers to visit their doctor.  For example, in the news recently was a deal higi did with Rite Aid, which will put higi’s kiosks in some 4,000 Rite-Aid stores.  higi already has kiosks in Publix and Whole Foods.  Their approach features kiosks that allow consumers to measure and track their vitals, while gamifying that mundane process.  They combine all the measures into a single “higiscore” that consumers can easily track, and also offer some community features.

higi is not alone in the kiosk business.  There’s SoloHealth, which claims 40m annual user engagements, driven in large part due to its deals with Walmart/Sam’s Club and Safeway, as well as some deals with health insurers, such as Wellpoint and HCSC.        

Not unlike higi, SoloHealth offers quick self-service screening options, but the deals with insurers have them offering information on health plan options as well, a move that is not without critics due to the perceived privacy concerns. 

HealthSpot goes the other screening kiosks one better by also offering video visits with board-certified physicians.  They’ve been doing deals with provider organizations.  HealthSpot also recently teamed up with telepharmacy – there’s another wrinkle! – vendor MedAvail Technologies to create an all-in-one Redbox-type system. 

Of course, non-office visit alternatives are broader than kiosks, especially “virtual visits” offered via phone or computer.  Parks Associates recently found over 25% of American households have used some kind of virtual care, and predict that will grow to 65% by 2018. 

Examples of virtual visit vendors include TeleDoc, American Well, and MDLive.  TeleDoc has been offering a telephone-based physician consult service for years, and now also offers a video consult service. 

American Well started with email physician consults, added video consults, and recently went beyond its traditional payor partners to offer a direct-to-consumer option at $49/visit.  American Well notes that its services are available via web, kiosk, and mobile – and, in fact, says that 60% of its video visits are from mobile devices.  MDLive is the most recent newcomer of the bunch, but has a wide range of tele-services and some serious backers, including Sutter Health and John Sculley.  

Kiosks themselves may end up being a niche offering along the continuum of points-of-care, as the video consults are already available on computers and mobile devices and as more and more biometric measures can be done via remote monitoring and apps – why drive to a kiosk when you get do the same things at home or on your phone?  After all, health related apps are booming, and include screening and diagnostic tools.  The stethoscope app, for example, has been around for several years and has proved popular with both consumers and – surprisingly -- physicians. 

So we’ve got sophisticated bio-metric screenings at your convenience in a wide number of retail settings and, increasingly, via mobile devices, plus we’ve got physicians available literally in the palm of your hand.  That’s not all.  IBM’s Watson is teaming up with “social health management” vendor Welltok to help answer consumers’ health and wellness questions without the assistance of a physician – or any live person. 

All these new options for receiving care and medical advice remind me again about how much behind the curve traditional health insurance and health providers are. 

This post is an abridged version of the posting in Kim Bellard’s blogsite. Click here to read the full posting

Reader Comments (1)

Not suprisingly these kiosks have not caught on. People like being in the traditional health care setting.

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