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Mayo Health Clinic kiosks on the way to Austin schools

Mayo Clinic Health Connection kiosks will soon be seen in Austin Public Schools. Herald file photo

Mayo Clinic Health Connection kiosks will soon be seen in Austin Public Schools. Herald file photo

Austin Public Schools is turning to technology to help keep staff healthy.

At Monday’s school board meeting, Mayo Health System in Austin and Albert Lea representatives presented details on its partnership with the district that aims to make access to health care easier through Mayo Clinic Health Connection, a kiosk which allows patients to be treated for basic care via teleconference through the HealthSpot platform.

“It’s a self-contained room, essentially, that you go in to get health care,” CEO Dr. Mark Ciota said. “And you’re linked via high definition video and audio to a Mayo health provider.”

The kiosk will enable Mayo Clinic and Mayo Clinic Health System physicians, nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants to see and treat patients face-to-face in a variety of non-traditional health care settings.

District staff and their dependents can visit the kiosk without scheduling an appointment to be treated for minor, common health conditions, such as colds, earaches, sore throats, sinus infections, upper respiratory infections, rashes and skin conditions, and eye conditions.

For anything more serious or and emergency situation, patients will still need to visit the doctor’s office.

The district should get the kiosks later this month or next month. They’ll be placed in Ellis Middle School and the former Home Health Care and Hospice building at 408 Fourth Ave. NW, Austin, which is one block from Austin High School. Renovation to make space for the kiosk cost at Ellis cost about $30,000, but Krenz said that should be made up through the money saved by utilizing the kiosks.

The district anticipates the kiosks will help decrease the cost of health care. The kiosk will cost about $50 per use, compared to $100 or more to go in for an appointment.

The district hopes this will help cut down on absences and the need for substitute teachers, as staff no longer have to make arrangements to go an appointment. It should also cut down on the number of urgent care and emergency room visits — which can prove costly and time consuming. Now, such visits should only take about 15 minutes.

“It’s certainly convenient,” Ciota said.

Ciota said the kiosk not only allows patients to see the doctor, but it also collects their data.

“It is completely connected with Mayo Clinic in that all of the information that’s gathered goes directly into the patient’s medical record,” he said.

Superintendent David Krenz was excited about the new kiosks. He said the staff is excited too, but he thinks they will be more so once they get the chance to use it.

“It’s so new it’s hard to anticipate what it will be like until you actually get a chance to use it,” Krenz said.

Krenz said the program is dependent on staff using and embracing the kiosks, which is why the district will educate staff on the kiosks.

“It’ll only work, though, if people go to it,” he said. “And that’s what the training and the information sessions will hopefully get that message out.”

Mayo Clinic Health System rolled out its first kiosk in the Austin medical center in October for staff and their dependents. Its second and third kiosks in the district should be a learning experience for the clinic too.

“We’re excited about the pilot as well, because we’re learning as well, so we want to learn the best way that it works for you,” Ciota told the board.