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Kiosks offer workers easy access to doctors

Feb 14 2018

The Herald-Palladium

By Jon Gard

Like something out of a sci-fi movie, patients can step into the telemedicine kiosk, tap a screen to connect face to face with a physician, and talk about their symptoms.

The doctor can get real-time blood-pressure readings, take the patient’s temperature, measure heart rate and even write a prescription.

And while the concept of telemedicine is not new, its introduction in the workplace in the form of a kiosk is being touted as a time- and cost-saver for employers and workers alike.

The recent installation of a kiosk at Westville Correctional Center was heralded as a great convenience and a less-expensive health care option for the 750 prison employees – and their families.

“It’s pretty cool,” Warden Mark Sevier said. “If I can do it, anybody can.”

After requesting permission from their supervisor, employees with anything short of an emergency can spend up to 30 minutes consulting with a doctor in the kiosk without tapping into their sick time or leaving work.

Until the person reaches his or her deductible, the cost of a visit to the kiosk is $49 – the same, or less than, the cost of visiting a doctor’s office or urgent-care clinic, and a fraction of the cost of an ER visit, according to Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Indiana.

This was the second telehealth kiosk installed by Anthem in an Indiana state government building, following one unveiled in December at Pendleton Correctional Facility, northeast of Indianapolis.

Private-sector employer Eli Lilly in Indianapolis also installed a kiosk the same week as the one in Westville, according to Marcus Bowling, Anthem’s director of sales.

Hoping to lower its costs, Anthem looked at data from customers on employee density and emergency-room utilization before making a pitch to the state in favor of the kiosks, Bowling said.

“We’re excited to see how much it will be used,” he said. “A kiosk provides the convenience of an on-site clinic, but it’s much less expensive for the employer. We think it will be a win-win all the way around.”

Bowling said consumers have flocked to online services in other sectors – from retail to communications – and he believes health care will follow suit. 

The kiosks are powered by telehealth provider LiveHealth Online.

Anthem has provided LiveHealth Online as a benefit to more than 27,000 state of Indiana employees since 2016, with video access to doctors through a computer, tablet or smartphone.

However, providing kiosks in the workplace gives employees even greater access, according to Indiana Department of Correction Commissioner Rob Carter.

“It makes a lot of sense for a lot of reasons,” Carter said. “And it beats the heck out of going to the emergency room.”

The walk-in convenience of the kiosks, which are available any time during round-the-clock shifts at the prison, along with access from other devices, allows employees to focus on their health and well-being at work and at home, according to Britni Saunders, director of the Indiana State Personnel Department.

LiveHealth Online allows them to maximize their health-care dollars in a convenient setting while also receiving quality care,” she said.

John Hicks, legal liaison at the prison in Westville, believes he and other employees will be well served by the kiosk because it provides easy access to a health-care provider.

A sliding door can be closed on the glowing kiosk to ensure privacy between patient and physician.

“Instead of taking time out of their day to travel to an appointment, employees receive the same level of care for minor ailments using instruments in the private kiosk, including a blood-pressure cuff, thermometer, stethoscope and more,” said Rob Hillman, president of Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Indiana.

Tools in the kiosk help the doctor made a diagnosis, provide a treatment plan and, if necessary, send a prescription to the pharmacy. Payment can be made with a credit card.

The kiosk is available to family members covered by the employee’s insurance, although they would have to be escorted through the prison gates by the employee. Children must be accompanied in the kiosk by an adult.

Sevier said helping employees take care of their health is good for taxpayers and makes for a more efficient operation overall.

“Anything we can do to benefit the staff is a positive, especially when it comes to health,” he said.

Read more on heraldpalladium.com.