Would you visit a virtual doctor?

A hospital in Tamp is giving employees access to healthcare via a telemedicine terminal.

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A health technology company that wants to beam doctors to patients remotely is announcing the first deployment of its telemedicine station with Tampa General Hospital. Hospital staff members can now get virtual life-sized consultations with physicians and automated pharmaceutical services.

Telemedicine has the potential to decentralize healthcare by distributing doctors into local communities virtually. In the best scenario, it could ease some of the strain and inequality in the current healthcare ecosystem. 

It's an idea that's gaining purchase around the world. As I wrote earlier this year, in France, people are already visiting Telehealth cabins for fast, convenient healthcare. During the recent Ebola crisis, the University of Virginia delivered care in parts of Africa via telemedicine.

The OnMed Station allows 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 common medications through a secure, automated vault. OnMed is targeting patients with common ailments such as strep throat or sinus infections.

"At Tampa General Hospital, we are on a journey to becoming the safest and most innovative academic health system in America," said John Couris, President and CEO of Tampa General Hospital. "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."

OnMed envisions stations like these distributed in hospitals, colleges, airports, hotels, large private employers, and other locations. The station can take basic patient measurements, such as height and BMI, and body temperature via thermal imaging. The terminal itself is protected by privacy glass, and high-output ultraviolet surface and air sanitation eliminate pathogens after every visit.

"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," said Austin White, President, and CEO of OnMed. "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. Tampa General Hospital has always been a champion for innovation in health care, and we see this as the next step in a combined effort to expand the reach of care."