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Local company using high-tech healthcare

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A new idea in health care is changing the way people are being diagnosed and treated for illnesses. A Telemedicine kiosk is bringing convenient health care to more than a thousand workers at one local business, the first of its kind in northeast Florida.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Tuesday that kicked off the use of the technology that employees at Crowley Maritime Corp., a shipping and logistics company based in Jacksonville, now can access.

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"Telemedicine is the way for the future," Beroune Eils, a family nurse practitioner who uses the Telemedicine system, said.

Employees who are feeling ill or simply want a checkup can now do it right at work inside a private 8-foot by 7-foot enclosure.

Patience first meet with a HealthSpot attendant before stepping into the kiosk where, once you're inside, a nurse practitioner will pop up on a small screen. There are also several instruments in room to help with a diagnosis.

When a patient is finished, any necessary prescriptions can be printed up and people can pay right at the front of the machine.

"The experience, I must say, was very convenient. Very easy to use," Lasonya Hill, an employee who recently used the kiosk for the first time, said.

Hill said she used the kiosk for the first time a few weeks ago when she had a persistent cough that was bothering her.

"I was in the middle of meetings and needed to come quickly down to the kiosk. I was in and out in 30 minutes and had a prescription called in to my pharmacy in 15 minutes," Hill said. "It was cheap, that's what I like. Convenient, cheap and quick."

With this service, the patient is able to have an interactive dialogue with a nurse practitioner, to be able to get the help they need.

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"When they're looking in the ears, when they're looking in their mouth, it's not just a guess, I'm going to trust the provider on the other end. She can show and circle around the area where she sees it to be a concern," William Manzie, Telemedicine manager for the Miami Children's Hospital, said.

The family nurse practitioners are treating these patients all the way from Miami and while they can diagnose minor illnesses like the flu or ear infections, they admit that they can't treat everything virtually.

"If someone comes in with abdominal pain, that requires more testing. That requires hands-on to examine the patient," Eils said.

While some doctors argue hands-on is the best way to diagnose a patient, others say this is as close as you can get to the real thing.

"I'm able to hear the heart rate, hear the lung sound. I can see the ears if there's an infection in the ear," Eils said.

"Some people may not like using that virtual feel and dealing with someone from a distance, but I felt comfortable because she did ask a lot of the similar questions that my doctor would generally ask," Hill said.

According to the American Telemedicine Association, 10 million people have used Telemedicine last year, and a recent Harris Poll survey found that 27 percent of consumers would use these services if they're available.

"For me, I would definitely ditch the urgent care and come to the kiosk," Hill said.

For the moment though, these services are only offered to employees at Crowley Maritime as part of their insurance plan with a $10 co-pay.