These ‘Health ATMs’ Serve as Doctors Where There are None


It’s time for your yearly checkup. You go to your local clinic, walk in, sit down, and get the full battery of tests – vital signs, glucose, cholesterol, other blood tests, and body mass calculations. The doctor uses a stethoscope and checks your skin over for any abnormalities you have noticed. When you’re finished, you get a printout of all of your test readings – with the option of emailing it to yourself and another physician – and you leave.

The whole process costs around US$15 and takes four to five minutes, because – save a little help from the medical attendant standing to the side – all of this has been done by a machine.

A medical ATM is now doing precisely that in India. It’s a machine that takes most of your primary care reading and connects you with a doctor over video chat for further consultation. Plus it’s lending a hand to more rural areas in India where full-time doctors are rare.

YOLO Health began using its ATM system about eight months ago and has 17 of the machines in circulation. 

India has only one doctor for every 11,528 individuals.

The prevalence of lifestyle diseases in the country – conditions like diabetes or hypertension that require close monitoring from a physician – is also rising, with 25 percent reported at risk of dying from such a disease before the age of 70. The type of monitoring required often involves looking at blood readings and other preventative measures carried out by a primary care physician.

A patient sitting at the ATM gets walked through the specific tests and services it offers. To help out, especially in rural areas where residents speak a dialect, an attendant sits closeby to answer a patient’s questions or help with tasks like putting on the ATM’s blood pressure cuff correctly. The helper doesn’t have to be a trained medical professional at all – he or she just needs to speak the local language.

Patients using the ATM pay per test and consultation. YOLO Health licenses the ATMs to its clients for a yearly fee of nearly US$4,500. Of the fee charged per video consultation, the startup takes 25 percent.

Doing the tests on-site may also eliminate excess fees accumulated when a doctor sends a patient to a partner lab.

Though the company seeks to make healthcare more convenient, Dhilly is mindful of how it departs from a traditional, more human-centered model. He recalls asking that of himself when developing the ATM: “Human touch, going to a doctor – it’s considered very important in healthcare. How do you accommodate that issue?”

The medical attendant helps, but perhaps the biggest obstacle facing YOLO Health is patient perception about healthcare in India, something that only time can change.

This article addresses the lack of access to vital measurements in rural areas of India. This approach could be used as a model for a similar solution to a lack of medical accessibility in other rural areas in the world or areas where medical care is insufficient. The ratio of recommended doctors to individuals could be increased through the use of these telemedicine machines. This would also decrease wait time for patients.

Additionally, as the article mentions, having an attendant at the station can help with confusion as well as conveying the feeling of a more traditional doctor visit. It would also help eliminate confusion and errors. Alot of criticism telemedicine receives is due to a lack of human connection. An attendant is a cost efficient solution to this problem. 

Further, I found this business approach interesting because it would reduce excess fees from medical visits, for both the patient and the doctor.