Tampa General, OnMed launch telehealth station that can diagnose patients

The stations use advanced technology including thermal imaging, ultraviolet sanitization and facial recognition to operate as self-contained, unstaffed exam rooms. (Tampa General Hospital/OnMed)

Busy hospital staff can't always take hours out of their day to visit a doctor about minor problems like a sinus infection or a skin rash.

Staff at Tampa General Hospital (TGH) now have a new way to access instant healthcare services via a self-contained telemedicine station located inside the hospital.

TGH partnered with Clearwater, Florida-based technology company OnMed to be the first to deploy the company's telemedicine station after six years of development. The stations feature advanced technology including thermal imaging, ultraviolet sanitization and facial recognition to operate as self-contained, unstaffed exam rooms, the company said.

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TGH is a 1,000-bed hospital with more than 8,000 full-time employees and 1,000 members on its medical staff.

The hospital's employees now have access to the OnMed Station for virtual life-sized consultations with physicians and automated pharmaceutical services. The OnMed unit enables TGH staff members to have video consults with healthcare providers and features a built-in automated prescription drug dispensary.

RELATED: Humana, Doctor on Demand launch virtual primary care health plan

"At Tampa General Hospital, we are on a journey to becoming the safest and most innovative academic health system in America," John Couris, president and CEO of TGH, said in a statement. "The health and wellness of our team members are just as important to us as the patients we care for every day at our hospital. By utilizing the OnMed Station within our employee base, we can ensure that our staff is prioritizing their wellness with access to instant care if needed."

TGH plans to partner with OnMed to deploy multiple OnMed telemedicine stations in "public consumer-facing areas" throughout Tampa, such as local schools and airports, according to Adam Smith, senior vice president of ambulatory services for TGH.  

"Right now, we are committed to prioritizing the wellness of our own team members by providing them access to instant care, when they need it. We believe the OnMed Station will prove valuable for our teams," Smith said.

The unstaffed OnMed Station pods allow users to have real-time consultations with a doctor or advanced practice provider via high-definition video and audio. The station even allows doctors to prescribe and dispense hundreds of common medications through a secure, automated vault, saving users a trip to the pharmacy, according to the companies.

RELATED: UnitedHealthcare ramping up investment in virtual visits, home monitoring for 6M Medicare Advantage members 

Staff members experiencing common ailments such as strep throat or sinus infections can walk away with a diagnosis and antibiotic medication within minutes, not hours.

The stations feature antimicrobial surfaces and high-output UV surfaces as well as air sanitization to eliminate pathogens after every patient visit. The self-contained exam rooms also are protected by privacy glass.

The stations include technology to measure patients' height, weight and body mass index, thermal imaging to read body temperature and diagnose infection and readings of blood pressure, respiration and blood oxygen saturation.

Patients who use the stations have the option to transmit examination or test results to their primary care physicians. The station can also provide patients with paper prescriptions, e-prescriptions to preferred pharmacies, referrals and self-service lab kits for diagnostic testing.

The telemedicine station was designed to be used in hospitals, colleges, airports, hotels, large private employers and other locations.

RELATED: Telehealth use jumps at inpatient facilities while outpatient adoption remains flat: survey

Austin White, founding partner and CEO of OnMed, said the stations take telemedicine to the next level by providing a live face-to-face visit using the latest diagnostic tools and medication dispensing.

"We believe telehealth is the future, but in order to see long-term success, it has to go beyond a phone call with a doctor. This is why we created OnMed—to combine the clinical expertise and diagnostic capabilities of an in-person visit with the convenience and efficiency of a remote visit," he said.

White said the partnership with TGH is "the next step in a combined effort to expand the reach of care."  

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