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In 2006, touchscreen technology was in its infancy. After several years as a CEO in the voluntary sector, Annette Walker MBE founded Elephant Kiosks to make information and services more accessible to more people.  She gathered a team of British designers and manufacturers to develop a touchscreen kiosk specifically for use within the public and voluntary sectors, the EleKiosk.

The adoption of touchscreen technology has grown tremendously in the last few years and in response Elephant Kiosks has continued to develop technology and software products which are used throughout the UK and abroad across a wide range of sectors. Today we interview Annette on the development of the Elephant Health Kiosk, an innovative new health screening unit which integrates patient self-screening results into the patient record.

Can you tell us what initiated the idea to develop the Health Screening Kiosk?

We were approached by an existing customer who had the idea that they wanted to empower patients to complete their own health checks, firstly, to save time and resources in the GP practices that they represented, and secondly, to empower patients and to get them to start looking at and taking responsibility for their own health.

What are the main features of the kiosk, how does it differ from others on the market?

We’ve developed a highly modular and flexible system. Our kiosks can integrate any number of medical devices such as the blood pressure machine, height and weight, oximeter, ECG and other screening devices. Combine those with care pathway questions that can be designed to suit the requirements of individual locations and their patients, and can integrate that data directly into the heart of the patient record with appropriate tasks and flags and information displayed on the screen for the patient and behind the scenes for the clinicians.

What have been the main challenges in getting the Health Kiosk to market?

The main challenges have been the length of time needed to develop the system in a clinically safe way – all the different practices use different PAS which we needed to integrate and they all required different development. Also, the slowness in Primary Care in adopting a new way of screening for patients, that might seem quite threatening to staff in that it’s taking part of their job away. The other barriers have been the expense of the clinically approved devices pushing up the overall cost of the system and being able to prove the cost savings and the time savings that the system can make. So, one of the biggest barriers has been helping the clinicians and GP practices to embed the system into the workflow of their general practice rather than just putting it in a corner and hoping that it would be used and adopted by their patients. Another barrier in terms of route to market is that you have to sell individually to GP practices and they all want to view the kiosk and have a demonstration before purchase – this is a very expensive and time-consuming way of marketing and selling the units, rather than having a centralised place where the GP practices can buy from.

What is your vision for the future of GP practice?

Due to the issues associated with COVID 19, obviously the way healthcare will be provided in the future has now changed completely, there will be less face-to-face consultations, more video consultations and the kiosk could play quite a good part in that as the first point of call either out in a community or in a practice so that someone could be screened and then triaged through if they do need a face-to-face consultation.

Imagine that technology and money are not limiting factors, what would you want from a future kiosk?

I believe that through the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning a kiosk could offer a comprehensive outreach screening unit, out in the community with not only health checks and screening but also offering individualised advice to the person using the kiosk. So, imagine Siri – as the kiosk is actually talking to you it knows who you are, when you last used the kiosk, your health record, your goals for getting fit and it knows your dietary requirements. When you go up to the kiosk and log-in with facial recognition, it will ask you how you are feeling, tell you that it has found a clinic for you to attend that you might be interested in for help with your COPD and ask you would like feedback on your health improvements.

Do you have any advice for new technology entrepreneurs in the health sector?

You really, really do have to engage with clinical staff right at the beginning, and also with patient representatives. Don’t assume that your wizard idea will be accepted straight away. You need to really, really know your stuff; if you don’t, you won’t gain the trust that’s needed to be able to implement and to break through in the health sector.

So, get yourself a clinical board together and be prepared to work with healthcare providers to develop your services. Be prepared to not make much money for a long time and don’t expect anything to happen fast. Once you have managed to break through it is a great sector to get into because you have got some really passionate clinicians that want change, and if you can find the right people that want those changes to happen, they will be supportive and work with you.

If you’d like to know more about Elephant Kiosks, please do get in touch or connect with us on social media @elephantkiosks to learn more.