AI, Video Conferencing in "Mobile" Health Care

10 Jan 2013

At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, HealthSpot unveils its blue-and-white walk-in doctor's office. Through high-definition video conferencing, consultation with a remotely based medical professional is made possible. The doctor can remotely administer tests, examine symptoms, and perform other basic diagnostic and treatment-related tasks. Fees to use it range from $60 to $70.

John Patrick Pullen of Entrepreneur says that the HealthSpot pod - minimizing waiting periods and introducing convenient health care spots for people - is reminiscent of the ATM's way of revolutionizing banking.

Initially, Ohio-based HealthSpot plans to facilitate doctor-patient consultations targeting 15 primary care medical conditions, including body aches, skin rashes, sore throats, and urinary problems. The e-services can be expanded to accommodate other specialists, such as dieticians and mental health care professionals.

"We want people to have an experience with health care like they do with their iPhone or iPad," said Steve Cashman, founder and CEO of HealthSpot, in a statement to Wired. Cashman referred to HealthSpot as the "Apple app store of healthcare services," which can be considered ironic because HealthSpot relies on Microsoft's technologies.

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the U.S. is facing a shortage of over 130,000 physicians by 2025. There is no better time to begin deploying apps and portable doctor's offices than now.

Essentially, HealthSpot's kiosks add automations and provide enhancements on the small retail clinics already existing in some pharmacies and supermarkets, then combine them with teleconferencing complete with standard medical equipment. The doctor can remotely push a button to manage a blood pressure monitor, a Bluetooth-enabled stethoscope, dermascope, digital thermometer, otoscope, and pulse oximeter. Instructed by the doctor, the patient can then use the interactive measurements to, among many other things, measure vital signs, inspect a skin rash, or take a close-up view of an eye to aid the doctor in diagnosing the problem.

The data collected is automatically uploaded to the servers of HealthSpot. The electronic medical record can be accessed by the patient anytime. At the end of the medical examination, an assistant enters the kiosk to make sure that everything is sanitized and to change the instruments' tips for the next patient.

Test sites in California and the Midwest feature several HealthSpot pods. The company plans to install 50 more pods this quarter.

On January 9 at the CES event, HealthSpot announced its partnership agreement with Teladoc.

"Partnering with Teladoc has proven invaluable to furthering HealthSpot's mission," said HealthSpot founder and CEO Steve Cashman. "With the HealthSpot Station adding a new platform for Teladoc's vast network of state licensed, board-certified providers, we are able to extend the reach of care to patients who cannot access the care they require in a timely fashion. This creates an incredible opportunity by presenting an innovative solution to combat barriers to broad adoption of telehealth."

"Teladoc's focus is on providing options for customers to access non-emergency, primary care and HealthSpot is a great complement to our current suite of solutions," said Jason Gorevic, CEO of Teladoc.

Teladoc runs a 24-hour, on-demand health service. HealthSpot, on the other hand, necessitates leaving home in order to get access to health care services which, by virtue of location, would be most likely available only during business hours.

An employer will shell out $950 per month for the HealthSpot pod. Prices vary for hospitals and retail sites. The number of units ordered will also affect the pricing. A "technology fee" worth $10 is added by HealthSpot to every medical appointment. The $10 fee covers the cost associated with sustaining a secure, HIPAA-compliant network.

Although the subscription fee may look expensive, retail outlets that directly contract with HealthSpot can save around $250,000, the estimated cost of an in-store clinic. Cashman pointed out that a HealthSpot pod costs around $15,000.

As remote interactions are streamlined by the heightened efficiencies of the internet and mobile devices, teleconferencing with professionals on health care issues will grow. More and more doctors are interacting with their peers and their patients through social media and mobile devices. Robots wander in hospitals to "ferry" doctors from one hospital room to another, giving out treatment and diagnosis. Through mobile apps, patients track their genetic information and health record, share the app data with their health care provider, and consult with mental health experts through mobile devices. And with the Affordable Care Act, the norm is going to go by way of electronic health records.

Some politicians, noticing the trend, advance legislation allowing doctors to practice telemedicine anywhere in the U.S. At present, doctors are only allowed to consult with patients in the state where they are licensed.

In a statement to Wired, Teladoc CEO Jason Gorevic said, "There's a tremendous challenge with access to care, and it's getting worse due to the expanding demand for primary care due to an aging population and healthcare reform." Gorevic also went on to say that the practice of telehealth can supplement the predicted shortage of doctors for medical conditions that do not need in-person visits.

Aside from offering convenience, telehealth solutions can give people an up-close digital look into their bodies. HealthSpot has instruments that patients can use to do just that. And as evidenced by the Quantified Self initiative, people are becoming more and more interested to collect information about themselves. And gathering more healthcare-related data cannot hurt. (KOM) Link. Link. Link. Link.