LANDOVER, Md. -- Giant Food here last week said it was rolling out a system that allows it to accept prescriptions through the Internet from physicians. The technology could soon be adopted by the rest of the chains in the Ahold USA network, according to one of the technology vendors.
However, Russell Fair, vice president, pharmacy operations, Giant Food, told SN that a rollout to the other Ahold chains, which include Stop & Shop, Tops, Bi-Lo, Bruno's and the Carlisle, Pa.-based Giant Food, is contingent upon physician acceptance of the technology.
"Since we're part of the same operating company, and we operate on the same technology platform, it's only a matter of time," he said. "When the physicians in their area start using the software, [the other Ahold banners] could roll it out to their chains."
Giant and other Ahold chains use the TechRx pharmacy point-of-service software. TechRx worked with the other technology vendors to test the new system.
Analysts have said that physicians' reluctance to adopt e-prescribing could be the biggest barrier to widespread implementation, but Fair said doctors so far seem to be willing to try it. Giant began testing the technology last month with about 250 doctors sending prescriptions electronically to six Giant stores, but it is expected to roll out to all 154 Giant pharmacies by late May.
NDCHealth, Atlanta, a provider of practice-management software for doctors, has agreed to promote the new service to its physician network, which includes 130,000 doctors. InstantDX, Gaithersburg, Md., provides the prescription-transmission technology, called OnCallData, which works with the most commonly used physician practice-management platforms. It also provides two-way connectivity, so that pharmacies can send electronic requests to physicians for refills.
Doctors pay up to $39.95 per month to license the software, and the retailer pays a nominal per-transaction fee, according to reports.
Fair said one of his objectives is to reduce the time his pharmacists and technicians spend on the phone.
"About 30% of our staffs' time is spent on the phone, so our goal is to get them off the phone as much as possible," he said.
The rollout at Giant got a boost last week from Craig Fuller, president and chief executive, National Association of Chain Drug Stores, Alexandria, Va., and Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, who both praised the initiative.
"Craig has always thought that it's really the road of the future," said Crystal Wright, vice president, media relations, NACDS. "He just thought it was great to do this on behalf of a member, and thought maybe it would encourage other chains to adopt the technology."
The installation at Giant follows the recent rollout throughout all 750-plus Ahold pharmacies of online and telephone-based, prescription-refill ordering for consumers. Tops Friendly Markets, Williamsville, N.Y., is the most recent of the Ahold chains to offer Internet-based refill services, through technology provided by CyberScript, a product of Advance Innovative Solutions, Oak Brook, Ill.
"Our focus in our organization is that everywhere we can use technology, we want to get there as quickly as possible, so we are on the leading edge," Fair said. "We're seeing great gains in the use of automated refill systems. We're seeing gains in customer service."