PHARMACY

Kiosks take retail into new realm of customer service, convenience

BY Alaric DeArment

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — A common feature in movies from the mid-20th century is the automat, a place where customers could plunk in a few coins and retrieve such pre-made food items as sandwiches and desserts.

(THE NEWS: Kroger expands reach to Ohio Northern campus with kiosk test. For the full story, click here.)

Automats mostly have disappeared in the United States, but the idea behind them appears to be on the rise again in the form of retailing kiosks, such as the one Kroger is piloting on the campus of Ohio Northern University.

Kroger isn’t the only retailer looking to use kiosks. Max-Wellness plans to put its Wellness-in-a-Box kiosks in airports, urgent care centers, hotels, fitness centers and other locations to sell customers health-and-wellness products. Meanwhile, Rite Aid announced in December that it would roll out 3-D holographic display kiosks showing images that appear to float in space.

But one area where pharmacy retailers, in particular, potentially could get a lot of use out of kiosks is at the pharmacy itself. In January, California-based Medbox announced the introduction of two new prescription drug vending machines, the Safe Storage Locker and the Medbox Rx, both of which allow pharmacists to load a customer’s medication into a lockbox for later retrieval, with customers able to obtain the medications with the swipe of a card and the scanning of a fingerprint.

Just as automats didn’t replace servers at the restaurant, kiosks won’t replace store staff or pharmacists, but they can add a new layer of convenience for customers and retailers alike, especially pharmacists who want to get back home at a reasonable hour and customers who can’t make it to the drug store until late in the evening.

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PHARMACY

Call to Congress to reject mail for Tricare comes at critical time as pharmacy, PBM war heats up

BY Antoinette Alexander

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — The call to Congress to reject budget proposals that would increase co-pays for prescription medications at community pharmacies for Tricare patients is important as the war between the pharmacy and pharmacy benefit manager lobbies heats up.

(THE NEWS: NACDS, NCPA urge Congress to reject proposal that discourages Tricare patients’ use of community pharmacies. For the full story, click here.)

As the articles states, the call to action by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the National Community Pharmacists Association aims to strike down a provision in the governments FY 2013 budget that would increase co-pays for prescription medications at community pharmacies for Tricare patients, but lower co-pays for prescriptions filled via mail order.

Such a policy would not only impose higher-out-of-pocket costs on Tricare beneficiaries and reduce access to care, but it is especially important to win the hearts and minds in Washington right now, as the clock ticks on the FTC’s decision over ESI-Medco.

Meanwhile, one big payer has weighed on the side of patient access when the state of Nebraska announced that it would leave ESI to stick with Walgreens. Reports indicated that Nebraska officials will switch health insurance carriers, as of July 1, from Blue Cross/Blue Shield to United Healthcare. A key reason for the switch: State employees want access to Walgreens pharmacies. More than half of the 15,000 state employees and 30,000 dependents presently have their prescriptions filled at a Walgreens pharmacy, according to reports. Plus, the move is expected to save $8 million per year.

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Pfizer cancer drug hits BioPlus’ shelves

BY Alaric DeArment

ALTAMONTE SPRINGS, Fla. — A specialty pharmacy provider has begun selling a drug made by Pfizer for treating kidney cancer.

The company announced that it had launched Inlyta (axitinib), which the Food and Drug Administration approved last month for treating renal cell carcinoma in patients with advanced disease for whom first-line systemic therapy has failed. According to the American Cancer Society, 60,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with the disease each year, and 13,000 die.

"BioPlus has extensive expertise in launching cancer therapy medications, and we are thrilled to be in the select group with access to this limited drug that offers hope to patients with RCC," BioPlus director of pharmaceutical contracting Sharon Ferrer said.

Pfizer granted another specialty provider, Phoenix-based The Apothecary Shops,  distribution rights for Inlyta earlier this month.


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