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Jacksonville Company Opens Telehealth Kiosk, As Lawmakers Debate Distance Medicine

Ryan Benk

Employees of one Jacksonville company will be the first in the region to test-drive a telemedicine kiosk.

By using cameras, Crowley Maritime employees can see a doctor for minor illnesses without ever leaving their workplace.  

Some state lawmakers are trying to expand telemedicine among the general public.

A blood pressure cuff tightened around my arm inside what looked like a giant photo booth in the offices of Crowley Maritime on Tuesday. 

But the nurse practitioner who assessed my vitals was five hours south at Miami Children’s Hospital.

Bernoune Fils appeared on a large TV screen.  Fils said by using the HealthSpot telemedicine kiosk, she can treat common ailments.

“Like, if someone came with abdominal pain, that requires more testing, and hands-on [treatment], that we cannot treat from the kiosk, but other than that, all the minor illnesses, yes we do,” Fils said.

The booth hummed and blinked with self-administered testing instruments, including a pulse oximeter.

All told, the kiosk costs up to $40,000. Yet the copay for a visit can be as low as $10.

Florida lawmakers have been unable to agree how to regulate the emerging technology, stalling its use in Florida.

But Miami Children’s Telemedicine Manager Bill Manzie gave telemedicine’s expansion better odds next year.

“I say that because we’ve had many state representatives visit Nicklaus Children’s Hospital as well as the speaker to see how we are operationalizing and managing the telehealth operations,” Manzie said.

Right now, telemedicine services aren't covered under Medicaid and other types of insurance in Florida. Some lawmakers have also expressed concerns about out-of-state doctors’ treating Florida patients.

But Senate Health Policy Chairman Aaron Bean (R-Fernandina Beach) recently said he’s confidentlegislators will find common ground. 

Ryan Benk is a former WJCT News reporter who joined the station in 2015 after working as a news researcher and reporter for NPR affiliate WFSU in Tallahassee.