Virtual Doctor Appointments Available in West Toledo, Ohio

A local pharmacy is home to the HealthSpot videoconference kiosk, where patients can step inside and talk to a doctor on a video screen.

by Marlene Harris-Taylor, The Blade / July 17, 2015

(TNS) — A new high-tech module in the front of the Pharmacy Counter store in West Toledo is bringing virtual doctor visits to local residents.

The pharmacy on the ProMedica Toledo Hospital campus at 2100 Central Ave. is home to the HealthSpot videoconference kiosk, where patients can step inside and talk to a doctor on a video screen.

With the aid of a medical assistant, who is in the store from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, a doctor can listen to a patient’s heartbeat through a stethoscope, and look at live video and pictures of the patient’s ear, nose, throat, and skin to diagnose minor health problems.

“If somebody has an earache or a sore throat or a skin rash — that we certainly have been seeing a lot this time of year — or a seasonal allergy, that type of thing, instead of calling the doc and trying to get in, it’s convenient for the patient,” said Dr. George Darah, who is one of seven ProMedica family physicians participating in the pilot project.

This is first virtual walk-in health clinic in the Toledo area, though the Columbus-based company that created HealthSpot has provided them to health systems in the Cleveland and Columbus areas over the past four years, said Paul Muneio, associate vice president of care continuum and innovation at ProMedica.

The physicians who interact with patients from computer desktops in other parts of the city work on a rotating schedule. If a patient walks in, the medical assistant calls the doctor on his cellphone, Muneio said.

“We are just piloting this right now to see how it goes and to see how the public responds to it. It’s a whole new way of seeing a practitioner. It’s not for everybody,” he said.

According to research conducted by the health-care technology company, the average age of those who have used the virtual doctor in other Ohio cities is between 45 and 55 years old. Each patient visit takes a doctor 15 to 20 minutes, he said.

Most people can bill their insurance as with a visit to any other family physician, but they also can pay a $49 per-visit fee.

The kiosk has been in the store since early June and about 15 patients have used it to connect with a doctor, said Brittany Rains, a medical assistant.

Most are excited and curious and many of the pharmacy’s regular customers have approached her about the odd-shaped module in the front of the store inquiring about what it is, Rains said.

Even the doctors have been joking that they feel like the physician from the Star Trek movies when they first start using the virtual system. It allows them to push a button from a remote location and pop out a blood pressure cuff or some other medical device to be used on the patient, Darah said.

“I think we are apprehensive and excited. Not all providers are going to do this, but I think it’ll provide another avenue of how to see patients. It’s just the wave of the future,” he said.

Patients with more severe problems are usually directed to schedule a visit with their physician or to go to an emergency department depending on the situation, Darah said.

All those seen by the physician are given a written summary of the visit with a diagnosis, and a report is also sent to their family doctor.

ProMedica has invested about $30,000 in this project, primarily in the back-end infrastructure. Depending on the outcome, the health-care company may purchase two or three more of the virtual kiosks, Muneio said.

The Cleveland Clinic has installed the kiosks in supermarkets and on college campuses.

“You could potentially see this in more public areas. It’s just where is that best fit, and we haven’t quite figured that out,” he said.

©2015 The Blade (Toledo, Ohio), Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.



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