Phoenix, AZ – WebMD, an internet-based medical lexicon, recently expanded into the online kiosk business, opened up a station in a suburban mall in Tempe, AZ, with three prototype stand-alone computers running its website. The intention was to advertise its service to potential customers for its upcoming paid subscription service. However, in a manifestation of the law of unintended consequences, an adjacent urgent care, run by Simians Urgent Care, discovered that their volume immediately doubled thanks to the run of worried well that came knocking on their doors.
“Once the WebMD kiosk opened, all hell broke loose,” exclaimed triage RN, Jane Brown, “People would come to the door worried about a host of specific medical conditions they read about on WebMD. I can’t tell you how many of our recent customers thought they had syphilis, porphyria, reflex sympathetic dystrophy, or chronic fatigue syndrome”!
Concerned observers in Arizona had been worried for some time that the acute care medical system would buckle under an avalanche of poorly compensated care related to increasing Urgent Care and ED visit deductibles, diversion of paying patients using telemedicine, and the lack of Medicaid expansion for the state. However, thanks to the new WebMD “fear factor,” those worries have proven unfounded as local urgent care and ED visits have skyrocketed.
Local hospital groups, looking to expand their own business, are scrambling to partner with WebMD to open up their own kiosks. Maricopa Medical Center in Phoenix recently trialed a WebMD kiosk system of their own in their waiting room.
“While my daughter was waiting to be seen for her stuffy nose, I noticed the kiosk in the corner,” commented one anonymous ED patron, “I had this several year history of feeling tired. I saw on WebMD that this could be caused by Lyme disease. I had to check in and get tested! Although I’ve never been to the Northeast or even seen a deer tick in Arizona, you can never be too careful”!