By Samira Balsara – March 16, 2022
UniDoc Health is now testing its virtual care technology in three pharmacies in Ontario, as part of a deal with Ontario’s OnPharm-United, an organization for independent pharmacies.
UniDoc’s platform is a kiosk that acts as a remote health clinic. It enables real-time, remote doctor and patient engagement with full diagnostic capabilities, replacing the need for a walk-in clinic visit.
With the OnPharm-United deal, patients in Ontario can now try out the kiosk at certain pharmacies. UniDoc will train employees of any OnPharm-United member pharmacy in which a Virtual Care Solutions Models kiosk is placed to ensure trained staff are available to assist kiosk users.
Pharmacies located in Wallaceburg, Scarborough, and Etobicoke will be testing UniDoc’s kiosks.
Successful tests of UniDoc’s technology could ultimately result in over 300 pharmacy installations in Ontario.
The concept was developed in efforts to improve telemedicine, chief executive officer Antonio Baldassarre said.
“We wanted to go beyond just a Zoom call or a phone call. UniDoc’s mission is simple. We want to remove barriers between the physicians and the patient,” he said.
Alleviating strain on health care systems
Over the course of two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has severely affected the health care system.
“What the pandemic has done was really drive most clinics or doctors’ offices to either on the phone or a Zoom call. Some of the issues with that is that the system has limited diagnostic capabilities,” Baldassarre said.
Data security issues are also present, as data is not transmitted through an authorized EMR system on a Zoom call. In addition, the pandemic has also made health care less accessible.
“If I’m not familiar with how to use a computer, or I have a disability of some kind, like a deaf or blind person, I can’t really communicate as well. So, a lot of people probably have not gone to the doctor for two years,” he said.
UniDoc’s kiosk helps solve some of these problems. The cube is designed to be much more accessible than a Zoom call.
According to Baldassarre, all of UniDoc’s cubes are American with Disabilities Act (ADA) approved. There is wheelchair accessibility, the monitor features captions for calls with the doctor, and the kiosk also comes with a keyboard for a patient to type back to the doctor.
Here’s how the UniDoc kiosk works:
Patients can phone in or walk into a pharmacy to book an appointment, just as they would when scheduling a regular doctor’s appointment.
The system will then automatically tell the patient which doctors are available and if they can see them right away.
Once a doctor is ready, the patient will walk into the “cube” or kiosk and a nurse will be readily available to work with them.
The nurse will record the patient’s weight, blood pressure and vitals. All of that information is sent to the doctor through the electronic medical record (EMR) system, which is an authorized and legal way of transmitting medical data. This way patient data is stored safely, as opposed to the way it is handled in other forms of telemedicine like a Zoom call, where it may not be properly protected.
The doctor has the ability to remotely join the appointment anytime and interact in real time with the patient, control the instruments, and even call in a specialist if the patient requires one.
UniDoc’s main goals are to reduce wait times in doctors’ offices for patients and doctors, as well as save time in the emergency room (ER). Patients can visit a UniDoc cube before going to the ER if they have a headache or cut, for example, and will be advised if the concern requires a visit to the ER. Baldassarre said this tool is also cost saving for the healthcare system.
In addition, UniDoc is simplifying doctor checkups for people with chronic diseases. Asthma, diabetes and lupus, for example, can be life threatening if not continuously monitored.
“What we’re trying to do particularly with OnPharm-United and their group, is that someone can literally just go to the local corner pharmacy to do these kinds of tests rapidly without having to commute and without the long appointments. The system will upload it so their doctor would get all the information that they need to continue a certain lifestyle,” he said.
UniDoc is already planning the future of its technology, hoping to expand globally for travellers. If a Canadian is visiting Italy for example, all they would need is their health card and they would be able to set up an appointment with their doctor back home through the kiosk.
“Healthcare should be accessible to everyone. We really believe healthcare is not a privilege, healthcare should be a right,” Baldassarre said.