7th May 2013 / Tom Quarry
Anyone who has recently tried to get medical attention will have come up against the massive and insoluble problem of the health market – there are never going to be enough doctors, nurses and paramedics to meet demand. As we get busier, the time cost of keeping healthy is only going to increase and that’s where kiosks and remote healthcare are making a huge impact.
The mHealth sector – as mobile healthcare is known – is growing massively quickly. Doctors’ time is at a premium so technology that allows them to be in two places at once is very valuable.
As early as 2010, two prescription vending machines were trialled in the UK. One allowed patients to collect repeat prescriptions without face-to-face interaction with a pharmacist. The second used a video link to open up a pharmacy service to patients out of hours.
Sexual health information is not easy to come by, so kiosks provide an anonymous way to collect information and also signpost people to the right services, often in conjunction with the sale of condoms or pregnancy testing kits.
Kiosks are also a great way to interact with patients who have complex needs and need complex information. Digital signage with touch screen kiosks can protect confidentiality and impart complex information flexibly.
A reactive kiosk is far more cost-effective than a human receptionist and can store far more information than any brain can. With good software design, a kiosk can provide a truly personal portal to healthcare.
The latest developments in mHealth and healthcare kiosks are seeing the collection of health information remotely.
Smartphones are now being marketed with health monitoring apps, and a kiosk can provide a far more sophisticated interaction.
With an aging population the healthcare sector has to deal with more chronic conditions – from heart disease to diabetes – which need regular monitoring. Having trained healthcare professionals collect this information is expensive, limits their ability to maximise their expertise more usefully, and is generally more accurate.
With wireless connectivity and high security encryption it is perfectly possible to securely and confidentially collect patient information. In the United States, kiosks with heart rate, blood pressure, red blood cell counts and even colour blindness testing are being introduced onto the market. Kiosks can link to online systems to monitor a patient’s progress, logging their activity and diet while measuring their vital signs, for example.
Networked kiosks provide the most cost-effective and controllable way to both give and receive important medical information in a system where face-to-face human contact is at a premium and is often wasted in consultations which do not maximise either the patient’s experience or the clinicians time. The role of remote healthcare will only increase.