The Doctor Is In (the Kiosk)

KioskAlthough teleporting yourself to a doctor's office far, far away may still be in the distant future (or a medically themed sci-fi movie), the next best thing is much closer to home than you might think. Mayo Clinic Health System in Austin, Minnesota, is piloting a program called Mayo Clinic Health Connection, where health care providers can see patients remotely -- beaming up their images, if you will.

As KAAL-TV tells it, the program uses a kiosk called the HealthSpot -- "about the size of a walk-in closet" -- which is a "self-contained unit" where patients can access medical care for common conditions. Mayo Clinic Health System-Albert Lea/Austin CEO Mark Ciota, M.D., tells KAAL, "The patient will walk in and have a very high-quality interaction with the provider" even though "the provider can be anywhere else in the world." A patient in Austin, for example, could see a provider in Albert Lea.

Melissa Barr, clinic operations manager, and Scot Ramsey, operations administrator, demonstrated how the kiosk works for the folks at the Albert Lea Tribune. Barr sat inside the kiosk on the second floor of the health system building in Austin while Ramsey sat several rooms away. Ramsey was able to converse with and listen to Barr's heartbeat through an electronic stethoscope that she held to her heart.

As we understand it, the a health care provider is connected via a laptop to the patient inside in the kiosk, which is outfitted with high quality video-conferencing equipment and several interactive digital medical devices, such as the aforementioned stethoscope, a thermometer, a dermoscope, an otoscope and a pulse oximeter. As the Albert Lea Tribune tells it, "the patient uses the equipment on himself or herself" as directed by the provider, and the provider monitors and receives the results electronically. To make sure things go smoothly, there's a real-life attendant nearby to answer questions and provide assistance.

The program is being tested by staff members in Austin and will be available to patients toward the end of October. And that may be just the beginning. "You could place it into an employment area, so the employees can access it in places like malls and schools," Dr. Ciota tells KAAL. The intent is to use the HealthSpot kiosk for acute care and basic conditions initially, but there is potential for it to be used for mental health or counseling services in the future.

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