Price Chopper, the family-owned supermarket chain based in Schenectady, is launching a telemedicine pilot program in five of its stores in Fulton, Johnstown, Poughkeepsie, Bennington, Vermont and Glenmont, an Albany suburb. For a $40 fee patients can see a doctor on a video screen in the store for fifteen minutes. The doctors are from Doctor on Demand, a national telemedicine company. Doctors must have a license to practice in New York. Doctors can diagnose symptoms and prescribe medicine for non-emergency ailments like cold, flu or sinus infections.
Price Chopper pharmacy staff told the Albany Times Union that the video doctor is not appropriate for someone with a serious emergency. The store pharmacist would step in and call 911 if necessary.
These Price Chopper supermarket locations already have pharmacies and many supermarkets are serving as mini-clinics to provide flu shots or walk in clinics with health care staff on hand. Telemedicine is an extension of that. While this trend is another example of health care becoming more consumer oriented, serious health care requires an ongoing relationship with both a doctor and a pharmacist. So telemedicine is no substitute for primary care.
Telemedicine may be good for those needing an immediate prescription for a non-serious health care problem. It will be interesting to review the experience of telemedicine and see who those are, whether they are uninsured or patients who could not get access to health care in other ways. It will also be interesting to see how pharmacies, urgent care clinics and supermarkets position themselves as health care keeps changing and moving out into the community.