By, KHN Staff Writer
Perched by a computer monitor wedged between shelves of cough drops and the pharmacy in a bustling Walmart, Mohamed Khader taps out answers to questions such as how often he eats vegetables, whether anyone in his family has diabetes and his age.
He tests his eyesight, weighs himself and checks his blood pressure as a middle-aged couple watches at the blue-and-white SoloHealth station advertising "free health screenings."
"You may not go to the doctor every year, but you come to Walmart often," says the fit-looking 43-year-old Khader who lives in nearby Ashburn, Va. "I get bored while my wife is shopping. This is a time killer. I’ll come back in two months or so, and track my results."
A burgeoning consumer health industry is betting that millions of consumers will do just that.
As Americans gain coverage under the federal health law, putting increased demand on primary care doctors and spurring interest in cheaper, more convenient care, unmanned kiosks like these may be part of what their manufacturer bills as a "self-service healthcare revolution."
From SoloHealth's stations, slated to be in 2,500 Walmarts and Sam’s Clubs next month, to video consultations with doctors, to smartphone apps that track blood pressure and heart rate, consumer health technology is attracting big-name backers such as retailer Walmart, health insurers Wellpoint and UnitedHealthcare and companies that make or distribute medical products, such as Johnson & Johnson and Cardinal Health.
Walmart's interest is especially significant, given the giant retailer's reach, the growth of its pharmacies and retail medical clinics and a top official’s recent statements -- since walked back by the company -- outlining plans for a push into primary care.