The Rise of Self-Screening
“We can use technology to greatly increase disease awareness..”
An announcement that Walmart is testing health kiosks is getting a lot of attention. These kiosks, from Solo Health, will give consumers a chance to self-test eyesight, weigh themselves, take blood pressure, and enter health practices into a computer. We are all familiar with the blood pressure machines at retailers which have been there for years. This new kiosk is raising the bar on what consumers can expect these self run kiosks to do.
The reason we need these machines is because consumers face two major issues. First, we are largely out of shape, overweight and under informed about the ways to be healthier. Second, we will have a serious doctor shortage in the future which will partially be a result of Obamacare’s goal of covering another 30 million plus people. Mr. and Mrs. America shop at Walmart and having self testing kiosks there makes great sense. Finding out you are 30 pounds overweight with hypertension is a good thing, at least if it gets you to take action.
We are entering a period in our health care history when we can use technology to greatly increase disease awareness and identification of at-risk individuals. I know the AMA wants well trained health professionals to be the ones educating and diagnosing people. Given the doctor shortage, we can accept technology solutions or we can just hope people can gain access to see a physician on a timely basis.
Obamacare can only work if we accept the hard reality of being much more efficient in delivering care. We can no longer let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Of course I would love to see a specialist for any malady I get. That will be increasingly hard to do from both an access and cost standpoint. Delivering information and basic diagnoses can be done with new technology. It is not perfect but a lot better than not doing anything. We will see increasing use of telemedicine or video chats because more patients can be “seen.”
We will see more technology specialists diagnose patients versus physicians. While it is true these medical technicians will not have ten years of schooling, they will be well trained in specific areas. Think of all the jobs we can create if we changed how we practice medicine. These may be $50,000 a year jobs but we need to rethink the idea that everyone needs to see a doctor to have a good outcome. We need to get back to the idea that specialists are there to handle cases that lesser trained people cannot handle. Unfortunately we have made specialists our first stop in many cases rather than the last stop.
The Walmart experiment is just the start of a technology revolution and an expansion of what is the definition point of care. These Solo Health kiosks will get a lot of hand wringing from the medical establishment who say self diagnosis is potentially dangerous. Some will worry about private business collecting health data. The reality is Obamacare is here and we must deal with how to succeed in practice to provide care for an increasingly unhealthy population without bankrupting the nation. If Kiosks can help do it, let’s welcome them.
Bob Ehrlich, Chairman
DTC Perspectives, Inc.