Consumer Health Kiosks Coming To Stores Near You

SohoHealth to place thousands of FDA-approved units in pharmacy departments of Walmart and other mass merchants. Plans include free health screenings for vision, blood pressure, weight, and body mass index.

Ken Terry, Contributor

August 29, 2012

5 Min Read

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SoloHealth, which operates consumer health kiosks known as SoloHealth Stations in nearly 300 retail locations across the country, expects to have 1,000 units in the market by the end of the year and 2,500 by mid-2013. Since January 2011, the company reports, 2.5 million patients have visited SoloHealth Stations.

The kiosks currently are located in five retail chains: Walmart, Sam's Club, CVS, Safeway, and Publix. The vendor will place most of the additional kiosks for the rest of this year in those company's stores, said Bart Foster, president and CEO of SoloHealth, in an interview with InformationWeek Healthcare.

The company just made an agreement with Dell under which the computer manufacturer will help develop and deploy the next-generation model of SoloHealth Station. According to Foster, Dell will loan SoloHealth the capital to scale up deployment of its consumer kiosks.

Situated in the pharmacy departments of the mass merchants and supermarkets, the FDA-approved kiosks offer consumers health screenings for vision, blood pressure, weight, and body mass index; a symptom checker; and an overall health assessment--all free of charge. In addition, consumers can have their health data stored securely in the cloud so they can access the information in future visits to kiosks or directly on SoloHealth's website, Foster said.

If a consumer's health assessment indicates he or she should see a doctor, that person can access a directory of local providers on the website. Noting that "we're not trying to replace doctors," Foster said his company would like to make arrangements with physicians and hospitals in each market to refer potential patients to them.

Similarly, although only a couple of CVS stores that have SoloHealth Stations also house Minute Clinics, Foster said he doesn't view the kiosks as competition for the retail clinics. The kiosks could be used to refer patients to Minute Clinics in their own stores or other CVS outlets, he noted.

[ There's almost no end to the amount of useful medical information available online. To spy seven valuable resources, see 7 Health Education Tools For Patients. ]

The mass merchants, the supermarkets, and CVS like SoloStation for three reasons, he said. "First, it drives traffic because it promotes health and wellness as a value-added service. Second, it promotes loyalty because of people coming back. Sixty-eight percent of people who test their blood pressure in our retail kiosks do it more than once. And third, people are able to learn about certain products in the kiosks, and we've shown that sales will go up."

SoloHealth's business model is simple. Although its deals with retailers vary on details, they essentially pay SoloHealth fees based on the volume of visits to its kiosks.

Meanwhile, Foster is busy working on deals with health insurers. WellPoint, one of the largest insurance companies, is already an equity investor in SoloHealth, and Foster said WellPoint invested in his company "because it wants to get closer to the consumer and engage them where they are."

Wellpoint and other insurers, he continued, are interested in pitching consumers on products such as Medicare drug plans and would also like to obtain biometric data on them. Although nobody who uses a SoloHealth Station has to identify himself, he said, there are discussions about asking consumers whether they'd like to swipe their insurance card when they enter a kiosk. "You capture various biometric data and that's sent back to the plan sponsor or the large employer," he said.

Why would a consumer want to do that? Foster noted that many health plans and employers already provide incentives to employees to complete health risk assessments (HRAs); the kiosk would provide another version of an HRA with actual health data attached to it. This could also be part of a company wellness program, he said.

To date, SoloHealth has raised about $25 million, including investments from WellPoint and Coinstar, Foster said. Back in 2010, the company received a $1.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to help it create products for self-service healthcare and prevention. The kiosk also won the Intel Innovation award last year.

SoloHealth recently released data from a study of its kiosks. Besides the 2.5 million visits it said the kiosks had received in the past year and a half, the company reported that:

-- Consumers spent an average of four minutes each in a kiosk.
-- A third of consumers took more than one test; blood pressure and BMI (body mass index, a measure of body fat) were the most popular combo.
-- A quarter of consumers using kiosks were return visitors.
-- 71% of users were at medium to high risk of hypertension.
-- 51% of users were overweight or obese.

InformationWeek Healthcare brought together eight top IT execs to discuss BYOD, Meaningful Use, accountable care, and other contentious issues. Also in the new, all-digital CIO Roundtable issue: Why use IT systems to help cut medical costs if physicians ignore the cost of the care they provide? (Free with registration.)

About the Author(s)

Ken Terry


Ken Terry is a freelance healthcare writer, specializing in health IT. A former technology editor of Medical Economics Magazine, he is also the author of the book Rx For Healthcare Reform.

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