January 13, 2008

Case Study - Pharmacy Kiosks Still No Go in Illinois

Self-service prescription pharmacy kiosk time savers are still on hold due to legislature still drafting security procedures. and once those are finalized still may not be implemented.

:: TheSouthern.com - Southern Illinois' Homepage ::

Region not guaranteed to get pharmacy kiosks
By Blackwell Thomas, The Southern
Saturday, January 12, 2008 11:03 PM CST
CARBONDALE - As part of new reforms to state pharmacy laws, Illinois drug stores have the right to install kiosks where customers can pick up prescriptions to avoid waiting in long lines.

But don't expect to see any of these timesavers in Southern Illinois anytime soon.

The specific rules of the law, which will outline security procedures for the dispensers, are still being drafted at the state level, meaning at least another 90-day wait until they can be installed. And once the rules are drafted and security technology crafted, there is no guarantee that Southern Illinois has enough demand to support drug-dispensing machines.

Murphysboro pharmacist Joe Palmer said Thursday that he doesn't see a need for the dispensers.

"I've been in stores before where people have to wait quite a long time but I really don't know whether things are to that degree here in Southern Illinois," he said. "People don't want to stand in line and wait in line very long but we are not there yet."

Echoing Palmer, Michael Polzin, a spokesman for Walgreens, said the company tested an automated kiosk in Southern California last year but the demand was not great enough to justify keeping it. The machine was axed after just a few months.

"There are no plans at this time to do anything like that in Illinois," he said. "I don't know about further down the road. Pharmacies are always changing and evolving; you don't know definitively where it might lead."

But, if a group of local elderly prescription drug users is any indicator, pharmacies won't be driven to use the kiosks in the near future.

Ninety-year old Ruth Parker said she was concerned that seniors might have trouble with the technology.

"How are they going to know how to use a machine?" she said, while sitting with a group of nine fellow residents at Liberty Estates retirement home in Carbondale. "

Collectively, the group questioned the dependability of a machine to avoid getting the prescriptions wrong and who would be held accountable if a mistake is made.

"I take 13 different (prescription pills) a day," said resident Vera Phillips, who gets her medication from a mail-order pharmacy. "I can't afford to get the wrong one (medication)."

That's why the state is taking its time to draft the rules that will outline safety procedures, said Sue Hofer, a spokesperson for the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.

"This is a public health matter and we want to make sure the right person gets the right prescription," she said. "We want to make sure it's convenient for the customer but also ensure that the customer gets the direct care and service that a pharmacist can provide."

That's all well and good, said Parker, the resident at Liberty Estates, but it doesn't address the issue of the technology.

After someone joked about not being able to use a pop machine, much less an automated drug dispenser requiring different verifications and passwords, Parker said she was having enough trouble with her iPod.

"It's driving me crazy," she laughed.

Posted by staff at January 13, 2008 07:59 AM