CES 2013 prominently features HealthSpot Station

“Real doctors. Real medicine. Really convenient.”

HealthSpot Station was prominently featured in the central lobby just as you entered the Las Vegas Convention Center during CES 2013, an honor that only the most interesting companies get.

Doctors and patients meet face-to-face like they always have, only in this case, the face-to-face is virtual: the doctor is in his home or office; the patient is seated in the kiosk; and the kiosk is located in a retail store. The HealthSpot Station kiosk allows board-certified doctors to conduct remote diagnosis and treatment using high-def videoconferencing and digital medical devices that appear behind locked doors when needed.

Although HealthSpot foresees having an attendant on hand “with a personal greeting to offer help,” there is sure to be a learning curve that consumers will face when it comes to virtual consultations — as will be the case for all early telehealth encounters. That said, HealthSpot is putting heavy emphasis on convenience. With the kiosk concept, doctors’ office hours, or even in-store clinic hours, no longer define the hours of service. Since network physicians are remote, from virtually any location in any time zone, the concept of a kiosk-clinic may very well lead to the advent of the anytime visit to the doctor’s office.

Pharmacies like CVS and Peoples are natural fit for the HealthSpot Station since people already head there to fill prescriptions. So are retailers like Target and Walgreen’s. Other possibilities include community centers and assisted living centers.  HealthSpot is being promoted through a pilot program with University Hospitals and Central Ohio Primary Care, which offers a core set of “immediate and routine” medical needs.

What’s interesting is the implications for the future of telehealth and current regulatory hurdles. State regulators today don’t allow physicians to treat patients across state lines, but if high-def video conferencing proves effective, this could change. I even think it’s feasible to provide some care across international borders, although many more industry stakeholders would oppose that. The kiosk still has limits; it does not support telemedicine, or the remote control of immunizations and surgical procedures, but who knows if some some form of that might be added in the future. It’s a concept to watch, and patients themselves may have the most influence in the end.