I know there are places in the world with quite advanced vending machine technologies and options, but as we bear witness to the consumerization of American healthcare, I can’t help but wonder what vending machines for self-enabled care look like. Yes, vending machines offering band-aids and PPE are not new, but what does it look like for healthcare products that are often caught in the crossfires of politics to be as easy to obtain as a bottle soda or bag of chips?
As a consumer driven society, we love a convenient, on-demand service. And while the technology, privacy and safety concerns remain, I do think normalizing healthcare vending machines could bring us one step closer to accessible healthcare, bodily integrity and healthier communities.
Here’s what I want to see in a healthcare vending machine:
Reproductive & Sexual Care: Abortion pills and PrEP There have been several instances of vending machines providing Plan B, but what about abortion pills or PreP? With a vending machine that provides mifepristone, you can enter an access code or swipe your insurance card and get the medication you need right now. Or maybe you’re traveling and forgot your PreP. With a quick entering of your medical record, you can select the medication you’re prescribed to keep you healthy and safe. Push a button, get your medication. Maybe it can be that easy!
Harm Reduction: Narcan With the recent FDA approval of OTC nasal narcan, having this life saving medication in a vending machine could dramatically reduce overdose deaths with a simple push of a button. This is not a new concept; narcan vending machines exist, so perhaps we’ll start seeing the product being offered alongside bottled water and chips?
Diagnostics: COVID19 tests, STD tests, pregnancy tests and more If there’s no pharmacy or health clinic nearby, vending machines could provide easy access for basic diagnostics. In rural locations or underserved areas, a vending machine that offers diagnostic tests could be the first point of care for someone who needs more information but is unable to get to a clinic or has reliable connection for a telehealth visit. From COVID19 tests to personalized testing (i.e. everlywell), healthcare vending machines can empower individuals with more information about their health while scaling access and intervention. Consumer healthcare is here and it’s only going to get more integrated with our lives. If we want to increase healthcare access and equity, we need to consider all possible options. Vending machines are easy to use and are becoming more technologically advanced, so that perhaps we can live in a world where healthcare really is as simple as pressing a button.
Ari Mostov is a healthcare narrative strategist and principal of WellPlay. A Hollywood veteran, Ari brings her entertainment expertise to healthcare, creating a new narrative for health. Learn more at www.wellplay.world