Will self-service kiosks improve preventive care?

As support builds for retail clinics to help the U.S. healthcare industry manage a major physician shortage expected to intensify upon healthcare reform implementation, retailers like Walmart and Sam's Club are transforming self-service healthcare to fill the need for preventive care, The (Minneapolis) Star Tribune reported.

More and more stores include do-it-yourself kiosks that offer free tests for vision and heart disease risk, as well as diet and exercise advice. The machines even tailor recommendations based on customers' answers to on-screen questions and will help schedule primary care appointments if needed.

"Handled the right way, they could be super beneficial," Dominique Tobbell, a medical historian at the University of Minnesota told the Tribune. "They're addressing a problem within the healthcare field, which is the need to get more patients engaged in preventive healthcare."

The increasing focus on wellness and prevention means the industry will likely see more retailers offer preventive services to help lower costs, improve access and ease primary care shortages, according to Healthcare Design magazine.

Despite the growing popularity--Walmart and Sam's Club deployed 2,500 such machines in U.S. stores in April--the self-service health kiosks raise privacy concerns, FierceHealthIT previously noted.

Moreover, some industry experts and physicians worry the do-it-yourself tests can do more harm than good, as results without professional medical interpretation could scare patients.

"If we simply tell a person your blood pressure is high, you're overweight, your vision is off, [and] we don't do anything to help them fix that, we haven't changed anything," David Thorson, chairman of the Minnesota Medical Association, told the Tribune. "It creates anxiety without helping them."

To learn more:
- here's the Tribune article
- read the Healthcare Design article

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