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Doc in a Box


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doc-in-a-box

Rachel Hostyk

August 2 2017

 

If the humans can’t solve health care, maybe the machines can? The rise of telemedicine is one of the most promising new developments on the health care horizon. These technologies, which allow patients to contact doctors remotely, stand to make health care both cheaper and more convenient. The latest iteration comes from Great Britain, where some pharmacies are introducing a service called MedicSpot. This is a “kiosk” that holds a computer screen and basic measuring tools like a blood pressure cuff, a thermometer, and a camera. Step inside, do the tests, let the doctor peer at you virtually, and you may even walk out with a prescription right then. The whole experience takes about 10-15 minutes.

 

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Here on terra firma, telemedicine isn’t making much progress in the U.S. Congress. Two representatives brought in a bill this past week to reduce regulations on telemedical services under Medicare, assuaging concerns of cost increases by mandating that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services confirm that each service is a savings. Of course, the representatives hold out little hope that it will be incorporated into any major legislation. On a more optimistic note, Politico reports that the nominee for HHS’s newly created Assistant Secretary for Mental Health position praised telemedicine in her confirmation hearing on Tuesday.

 

There are reasons to be somewhat cautious about telemedicine; there is the privacy issue, and also worries that it might eventually lead to a two-tiered medical system, in which wealthier patients with better coverage see doctors while others only get access via their screens. These kinds of concerns can (and obviously should) be addressed, but the technology must not be stifled. In a medical system that’s too costly and crowded, telemedicine could ease the burdens on providers, and the costs in both time and money for patients. Let’s welcome the doctor boxes!

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