Self-service health care comes to retail (Commentary)

By Dave King

In a game of word association, your response to "health care" might well be "reform" given recent health policy headlines. Increasingly, we're living in a time when "health care" and "self-service" are two concepts that also belong together.

Self-service kiosks have been used in traditional health care settings for wayfinding, patient check-in, health education and visitor access. Now consumer-directed health care and user-friendly self-service technology have converged to make retailers a natural setting for health kiosks designed for education and wellness screening. Retailers' efforts are effectively putting health care in the path of our everyday lives.

Retail and brand executives or average consumers who haven't checked their blood pressure in a store lately will be pleasantly surprised by the transformation of the blood pressure kiosk. It is being replaced by multi-dimensional digital technology like the SoloHealth Station.

SoloHealth is on a short list of FDA-approved providers of self-service consumer health care that retailers are turning to. There are currently over 1,000 SoloHealth Stations in select retailers across the U.S., including Walmart, Sam's Club, Safeway, Publix, CVS and Schnucks Markets.

The SoloHealth Station enables self-service health screenings for vision, blood pressure, weight, and body mass index, a symptom checker, and an overall health assessment free of charge. The kiosk also helps connect consumers to local professionals through their databases, helping people enter the most appropriate and accurate point in the health care system.

An obvious benefit to retailers is that health care kiosks drive traffic, as do the walk-in health care clinics that have sprung up in big box, drug and grocery stores in the last few years. There is also a benefit to brands that can target messages on-screen to health-conscious consumers while they're just yards away from their products.

Beyond these strategic aims lies a societal benefit to health and wellness screening that Bart Foster, founder and CEO of SoloHealth voiced saying, "Awareness and prevention are probably the best frontline defense against poor health and cutting unnecessary costs across the board." Notably, the kiosk's engagement statistics show that 71 percent of users are at medium to high risk for hypertension, while 51 percent are overweight to obese.

A key to the success of any kiosk is whether people will want to use it. Today's self-service health care has cross-generational appeal. Members of Generation X are accustomed to doing their own healthcare research. Yet, the incorporation of intuitive touchscreen features that people have become familiar with on their smartphones and tablets makes the kiosk experience accessible to a wider age range.

Self-service health care kiosks in retail settings bring some of the same positive customer experiences that are made possible by kiosks in other settings like airports, grocery stores and department stores: immediate access, efficient communication, and the portability of cloud-based access to information.

If you haven't personally crossed paths with a self-service health and wellness kiosk at retail just yet, be patient. Based on their early success, there should be 4,000 or more out there a year from now.

Dave King is the SVP of Frank Mayer and Associates.

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User Comments – Give us your opinion!
  • D F
    I used one in a Sams club and it was a fiasco. I am ardently opposed to 'self service' in general, but especially in the health care field. Fine, let a kiosk take my blood pressure. This is a good thing that has been around for years, but that is about where it stops. I want a Doctor to make the determination regarding my health, not a machine. (And it appears from the report above, that they are collecting and using the results of these kiosks to generate public reports on the health of the country. Obviously, these machines do not take into account the people who are healthy and know it, and never use the machine. We are trusting machines far too much and eliminating the person to person contact that is necessary in society.
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