BRAINTREE, Mass. -- Ahold USA here hopes to extend pharmacy pick-up hours with ATM-like prescription refill kiosks.
"We are going to highlight self service and convenience with the dispensing kiosk," said Bradley Dayton, director of pharmacy operations for Ahold USA, speaking at the National Association of Chain Drug Stores Pharmacy and Technology Conference in San Diego late last month. "The system not only frees up pharmacists while they are in the pharmacy but provides customers with extended pick-up hours without extending the pharmacists' hours," Dayton said.
Ahold was granted tentative approval in June by the Virginia Board of Pharmacy to test the Asteres, San Diego, ScriptCenter dispensing machine in one Giant Food Store in Reston, Va. The Asteres system is currently being installed, reported the vendor.
Ahold management determined the need for a refill pick-up kiosk by identifying the day-to-day pressures relating to customer service, Dayton said. "Sometimes we feel like we're at the end of our ropes, and we have to find ways to use technology to grow front-end systems."
With a focus on using technology to take advantage of opportunities in front of the pharmacy counter, Christopher Thomsen, president of the ThomsenGroup, Kansas City, Mo., speaking at the conference, likened the challenge of meeting the rising prescription volume to that of climbing a mountain. "If I use the right tools properly and apply them to the opportunity that's in front of me, they will help me accomplish reaching the top," he said.
Dayton, however, highlighted the significance of integrating staff members into the decision-making process. "The most important thing concerning technology is to have acceptance from pharmacy staff. No matter how good the technology, if they don't like it, it won't be used. But if it is used, it can create a unique customer experience."
Other technology employed by Ahold includes electronic prescription refill requests, which Ahold began using in its Washington market in 2002. Since then, stores in Massachusetts and Maryland have also adopted the technology.
Dayton reports that about 3% of Ahold's total prescription request volume is currently received electronically and that turnaround time for those prescriptions is down to between four and six hours, compared with a 24-hour turnaround time for requests received by traditional means.
The retailer also operates in-store pill counting automation technology, computer system-based workflow software, automated refill reminder calls to customers and the shopping-buddy Web-interactive shopping cart in some Ahold stores.
"The technology choices you make will directly affect the shopping experience of your customers," Dayton said.