Telemedicine kiosks are on the rise, with employers and insurers installing them in the workplace for added convenience and cost and time savings for employees. Kiosks have medical screening devices, touchscreens and videoconferencing capabilities to connect telemedicine doctors or nurse practitioners who can then assess the patient and email prescriptions when needed. The cost for the patient is roughly $15, much less than the average cost of an urgent care visit of around $50.
JetBlue Airways, the municipality of Kansas City, Mo., and the Palm Beach County School District are leading the pack with telemedicine kiosks at their worksites to spare employees a trip to the doctor’s office.
The cost per kiosk can range from $15,000 to $60,000, but the hope is the equipment will lead to improved care. Officials in Kansas City have estimated savings of at least $28,000 a year from individuals choosing telemedicine instead of an in-person doctor visit. The city also estimates it has gained hundreds of productive work hours from the time saved by employees not having to wait to see the doctor and taking time out of work for appointments, reports Kaiser Health News.
Health insurers such as Anthem and UnitedHealthcare have also shown support of the kiosks and are currently testing them at worksites where they have contracts. Anthem has installed 34 kiosks at 20 employers in the past 18 months.
Tim Bartholow, MD, a family doctor by training and chief medical officer for WEA Trust, which recently installed a kiosk for its 250 workers, shared his experience in an interview with KHN. Initially, he was cautious about physicians treating patients they haven’t seen in person. After observing employees using it, Dr. Bartholow is convinced it can help them get good care.
“I don’t think telemedicine is making a doctor being on site quite agnostic, but it is certainly reducing the premium on being in the same space as the patient,” added Dr. Bartholow.