Even before telemedicine has reached full-on acceptance in urgent care, the next step in the evolution of remote healthcare “visits” may be in progress as we speak. A company called OnMed is launching self-contained, unstaffed “pods” that will facilitate remote access to a healthcare provider and allow a patient to receive medication without taking another step. Each unit is designed with capabilities for measuring height and weight; determining body temperature; and measuring blood pressure, respiration, and blood oxygen saturation. For security, they’re built with privacy glass and doors that lock automatically to prevent anyone from viewing or entering once the patient begins an encounter. Payment is made on the spot using an ATM-like device. The onboard dispensary will be stocked with hundreds of commonly prescribed medications, as well as with over-the-counter drugs, wearable technologies, rapid strep tests kits, and other basic labs. Prescriptions to brick-and-mortar pharmacies will also be available. The idea is to extend patient access to places with insufficient demand to justify a full-service urgent care center. According to a recent post on HealthLeaders, the systems are intended for use not only in rural locations where facilities might be sparse, but also to reduce log jams in busy emergency rooms (wherein patients facing an hours-long wait might opt to step up to the pod, see a clinician remotely, receive their medication, and head home before their name would even be called in the waiting room). Other possible locations include airports, college campuses, and worksites. The first two units are expected to go online next month in Mississippi. For now, the units will be used by health systems’ own providers for video consults, alleviating concerns over potential problems with reimbursements. Contracting organizations pay OnMed either per-member or per-usage.

 

Are Medication Dispensaries Next in the Evolution of Remote Healthcare?
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