Self-service using computerized stands and booths now exists for everything from grocery checkout and restaurant orders to self-storage and mental health screening. The pharmacy industry is no exception in experimenting with kiosks, looking for new ways to serve both patients and their business.
Not surprisingly, promising uses from a few years ago continually give way to new possibilities. Smartphone apps and technology wearables such as FitBit® bring connectivity and personalization to kiosks that were originally conceived as standalone self-service centers.
So what’s going on with kiosk use in pharmacies? Looming on the horizon is telemedicine, or medical treatment via remote technology – a potentially enormous change in healthcare delivery. But standing alongside cutting-edge ventures are decidedly low-tech approaches. Let’s start there.
Drug disposal kiosks are appearing in many stores. These kiosks are usually a simple receptacle intended to address drug safety issues popularized by events such as the DEA’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. In addition to the public health benefits, drug disposal kiosks drive traffic into the store, always a positive for business. A step in the other direction, picking up rather than tossing prescriptions, offers another example of kiosk use in the pharmacy.
Kiosks that dispense prescription medication on a self-service basis got a lot of attention in the early to mid- 2010s. The idea is to allow customers another access to their medication, perhaps to avoid waits at the counter or for pickups when the pharmacy isn’t open. Chatter on this use of kiosks has quieted, or perhaps shifted, but very localized kiosk installations speak to the interest and experimentation that remain.
For use earlier in the chain of care are kiosks that provide self-service health checks. Most of us are familiar with in-store blood pressure machines, and this kiosk use is maintaining traction. Midwestern grocery retailer Coborn’s partnered with PharmaSmart® to add clinically validated blood pressure kiosks to its pharmacies. Coborn’s says its decision was prompted by Medicare Star Ratings, specifically the triple-weighted measures of Medication Adherence for Hypertension and Controlling Blood Pressure. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a guide for pharmacists on helping customers manage their blood pressure. It advises the use of clinically validated blood pressure kiosks that automatically transmit data to the pharmacy computer system.
Health and Well-Being
With kiosks to measure blood pressure, versions that record and make use of other health measures couldn’t be far behind. One example is higi. The company’s website asserts it operates over 11,000 FDA-cleared stations placed inside retail stores and other locations. The company also offers web and mobile platforms that link to their kiosks and to other popular health devices and apps.
This kiosk vendor markets itself to pharmacies as a way to make their stores a destination for shoppers increasingly tuned into their own health lifestyle. These “ambient health data” kiosks let customers check their blood pressure, pulse, weight, and body mass index. Users can also set up an online account to track their personal health data.
Discussion about health-monitoring kiosks moves quickly into the broader topic of telemedicine. A combination of factors indicates that telemedicine will cause a sea change in healthcare. These incentives include advances in the tools that can make it possible, lower per-visit costs, increasing coverage by insurers, and the trend toward truly consumer-centered service.
Telehealth company American Well has branched out from helping users arrange remote doctor visits via web or smartphone into virtual healthcare kiosks. Their website describes both console and enclosed booths with a touchscreen interface and integrated biometric and remote-monitoring devices. The company advertises the kiosks as a way for workplaces, stores, and community groups to offer the advantages of a medical clinic without the usual cost and staffing issues.
One company entered into an agreement with American Well to provide round-the-clock telemedicine services via kiosk and website in more than 600 independent pharmacies. The company said these health centers will offer medical care, behavioral health therapists, and registered dieticians to rural and underserved areas.
Considering a Kiosk
Looking at these trends related to kiosks, should you consider actually making an investment? Health-monitoring vendor higi touts advantages like getting at-risk patients into the store and running marketing on the kiosk itself. American Well talks about the business opportunity from low-cost, fast-access retail clinics; a patient diagnosed at your telehealth kiosk would presumably become a customer of your medication and other products.
Relationships like these could be explored for independent pharmacies. Looking at Coborn’s initiative could be a place to start: using federal guidelines to incorporate a clinically validated blood pressure kiosk. Other health-monitoring kiosks such as higi’s are also widespread enough to provide useful lessons for pharmacies contemplating such a purchase. As with any store investment, a smart decision is more likely to result from a clear business goal and thorough research of the options.
People who study kiosk use say that three things determine if a customer will engage in self-service: knowing what’s expected, being capable of doing it and, importantly, seeing the value of expending the effort. With people increasingly attuned to both their own wellness and to the convenience of their healthcare, kiosks in the pharmacy may prove a healthy choice.