By Pratik Vora
How many of us would like it if we could make direct appointments with the same doctor every time and meet him or her in a kiosk near our house at a time we propose? I think almost all of us. Because now, in the modern era, time is money and everyone wants to be healthy in order to use the money! In order to stay healthy, “Health ATM” is the new term to know, coined to develop the facility described above.
One similar initiative has been taken by the Ohio-area telemedicine startup, which is looking to provide a better alternative than retail clinics to patients. They will use a company called HealthSpot to develop kiosks called Care4 Stations, which will be in locations like pharmacies or grocery stores. They will have a virtual doctor’s office, which means each kiosk will be equipped with high-definition video conferencing capabilities. The primary goal of HealthSpot is to treat minor illness or allergies in a convenient, competent experience. Moreover, they’ll also contain integrated digital medical equipment that can send doctors diagnostic information directly.
In India, a nongovernmental organization called the Wish India Foundation has also taken the initiative to build a system of ATMs for health care in Rajasthan. With the help of public-private partnerships, such kiosks will become reality in rural areas in the early stages. These ATMs will include a stock of drugs and other medical essentials. Kiosks will also have primary diagnostics facilities like a urine analyzer, blood pressure checker, glucometer, etc. These kiosks will be teleconnected with doctors, too.
The initiators of Health ATMs are taking a step in the right direction, making it easier for 100% of the population to be healthy. But how will Health ATMs negatively affect health care? For one, the patient-doctor relationship will suffer. The patients will be interacting with their doctors via audio and video, losing the aspect of human-to-human interaction that is needed to establish a relationship. And the doctors may lose some sense of their professionalism without the expectations of a competitive office environment or donning of their white coats. Will overprescribing become a problem, too, with the inability to fully see the patient’s throat or feel the lymph nodes with their own hands? Overprescribing can lead to many issues, including the current major issue of antibiotic resistance. With all this teleconnection, will there be security issues? Paperwork, patient charts, and prescriptions will be transmitted between the doctor, the patient, and sometimes the health care company, which will add more personal data to the omnipresent cloud.
Despite all these negative possibilities, Health ATMs offer health care solutions for many who would not otherwise receive care, for instance those in rural areas where the number of doctors and their accessibility is limited. Ultimately, I applaud the initiators of this innovation and hope that Health ATMs will be successfully implemented across the world.