Vitamins. Pill counters. Bottles. Dispensing spoons. iPads. iPads?
According to Drug Store News, Walgreens recently announced that pharmacists at its 16 Chicago stores will be given Apple tablets for instant access to customers' medical records, Walgreens prescription history, and other electronic medical records (EHRs) that are available for veterans or government employees, all to streamline operations and reduce costs, according to a story by Karlee Weinmann at businessinsider.com.
EHRs have been in use since the health reform act of 2009 mandated that healthcare providers switch over from paper to digital records or face financial penalties.
“The concept is meant to create a pharmacy and health care ‘help desk’ where customers get solutions or referrals for their personal health questions,” Walgreens’ chief innovation officer Colin Watts told the Chicago Sun-Times, which covered the program's launch in 16 Chicago-area stores, according to Weinmann’s story.
But according to a story by Dusan Belic at intomobile.com, Walgreen’s motive may not quite be totally so customer-oriented. Belic quotes an article at the Chicago Sun-Times that said “the company’s idea is also to keep customers from taking up valuable time with pharmacists for routine issues.”
Customer- or business-wise, as far into the future as Walgreens seems, it may already be too far in the past. Business insider.com’s Weinmann reports that its competitor Rite Aid, “often seen as an also-ran when compared with (rivals) Walgreens and CVS,” has already experimented with a similar (though less inclusive) tablet project this summer at a store modernized for the digital age.
And leaving even Rite Aid in the dust, a technology-proficient California pharmacist last year blogged about his colleagues integrating iPads into their work, according to Weinmann.
It may be too soon to tell but the next time you visit your pharmacy, don’t be surprised if the person you ask about your prescription is writing it all down on a tablet. Deborah DiSesa Hirsch is an award-winning health and technology writer who has worked for newspapers, magazines and IBM in her 20-year career. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.
Edited by Rich Steeves