The unstaffed pods are designed for use by health systems, employers, and government organizations to enhance access in busy EDs, rural locations, worksites, airports and other locations.
A new concept in virtual care launches today from Clearwater-based technology company OnMed, featuring a self-contained, unstaffed station, which offers video consults with healthcare providers and a built-in automated prescription drug dispensary. The unit has special sanitization and air filtration systems, and is designed for maximum privacy, as well as HIPAA and ADA compliance.
The stations are intended for use in emergency departments, rural locations, airports, campuses, and worksites, and placement will occur through contracts with health systems, employers, and other organizations. The first two units will open this April in northern Mississippi, and while the company's CEO says it already has contracts with a few health systems, names cannot yet be disclosed.
When examining the healthcare landscape more than six years ago, OnMed's founders aimed to address a void in the spectrum: access to care.
"We look at the OnMed station as an access ecosystem," says Austin White, CEO and founding partner of OnMed. While much of the industry is focusing on delivering remote solutions through smartphone technology, computers, and tablets, he points out that these tools "lack quality diagnostic capabilities and certainly none of them can dispense a medication."
The station itself can safely dispense hundreds of common prescription medications with the approval of a doctor or pharmacist through a secure, robotically automated vault. In addition, it could be stocked with over-the-counter medications, wearable technologies, rapid strep test kits, and other home monitors or lab kits.
"The dispensary really does set us apart," says White. "That's part of our patent."
Advanced Tools for Remote Diagnosis
Each OnMed station also includes a "life-size" television screen and an ultra-high definition camera that make it possible for the doctor to look down a patient’s throat or even examine a tiny skin lesion in detail. The pods also feature other advanced technology, including thermal imaging and facial recognition, to provide patients with a safe, private, and secure consultations.
Additional capabilities and technology includes:
- Tools for height, weight, and BMI measurement
- Thermal imaging to determine body temperature and diagnose infection
- Tools to measure blood pressure, respiration, and blood oxygen saturation
- Audio and visual inspection of vitals in HD video and audio
- Privacy glass that makes it impossible to see into the unit once a patient enters, plus doors that automatically lock and prevent entry behind them
- Option to securely transmit results to primary care physicians
- Ability to provide paper or e-prescriptions to preferred pharmacies, as well as physician referrals
OnMed is a sister company to MD Plus, a Clearwater, Florida-based telemedicine service that offers members 24/7 access to healthcare providers via the phone. Initially, OnMed's own medical assistants will greet customers through the video screen and perform initial tasks, then transfer control to telehealth physicians who work for the health systems that are using the units.
OnMed is building its own staff of nurse practitioners, physicians, and pharmacists who could be the primary point of contact, or provide backup service, depending on the needs of the contracting organization.
OnMed stations feature antimicrobial surfaces and high-output ultraviolet (UV) surface and air sanitization to eliminate pathogens after every patient visit. The UV lighting is "custom-designed to bombard the interior of that console room with 25 times the necessary ultraviolet light to kill C. difficil. in two minutes," says White. The air filtration system is so advanced, he adds, "the air coming out of the station is actually cleaner than the air that came into it."
Payment and Reimbursement
The stations include a built-in merchant payment device, much like an ATM, to accept payments for services, copays, or items from the dispensary. Because the units will initially be used by health systems that employ their own healthcare professionals for video consults, OnMed does not have to be concerned with reimbursement issues at the outset.
Contracting organizations pay OnMed a per member fee or a per usage charge. For health systems, reimbursement from payers would be aligned with whatever protocols are already in place for telehealth services.
“We have been in stealth mode for more than six years, creating the most comprehensive and beneficial telemedicine solution in the world,” said White in a news release. “When it comes to delivering a comprehensive doctor/patient encounter via telemedicine, sometimes our phone just isn’t the answer. We need the accuracy provided by a live face-to-face visit using the latest diagnostic tools, and the ability to receive medication all in one sitting. This is what we’re doing with OnMed. Our disruptive healthcare technology is turning telemedicine into something that can actually bridge the gaps in our current healthcare system and improve access, cost and quality of care.”
Mandy Roth is the innovations editor at HealthLeaders.
Photo credit: OnMed