www.Medtipster.com Source: newsobserver.com, 2.28.2011 – by Sue Stock
It’s not enough for America’s big pharmacy chains to be on every corner.
Now they want to be in your pocket, too.
This year the behemoths of the pharmacy industry including Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid and Target are all ramping up efforts to offer you pharmacy services via your mobile phone.
Want to refill a prescription? No problem.
Check on your medication history? You can do that, too.
Walgreens has even introduced a refill system that allows you to order a prescription refill by using your smart phone camera to take a picture of the bar code on your medication bottle.
The pharmacies say the added features are all about convenience.
“If you look at our national footprint of 7,600 stores throughout the country, our physical stores are within three miles of nearly two-thirds of the U.S. population,” Walgreens spokesman Jim Cohn said. “I think that what we’re doing through our online and our mobile offerings is really extending that convenience to our customers through this channel.”
But, there are other reasons for such companies to explore mobile technology, especially in the super-competitive pharmacy business, said Dan Mendelson, CEO of Avalere Health, a health care advisory company in Washington, and a Duke University adjunct professor.
“What they’re really trying to do is create ‘stickiness’ among their clientele, and they’re also trying to appeal to younger customers who are maybe not going into the pharmacy for other things,” he said. “It’s a marketing strategy and not a whole lot more.”
Still, it seems to be working. Walgreens reports that more than 1 million people have signed up to receive alerts by text message when their refills are ready.
And with that kind of interest from consumers, it should be no surprise that smaller and independent pharmacists are watching closely. Raleigh-based Kerr Drug is exploring mobile technology this year, spokeswoman Diane Eliezer said. Kerr already offers refills through its website.
“We’re just looking for more ways for people to reach us with different devices,” she said. “We’re not going to hesitate to try it when the time is right.”
Here’s a rundown of the different services that are available for consumers:
CVS : Last year, CVS introduced an iPhone app that allows users to refill and transfer prescriptions, view prescription history, access drug information, view the weekly sales ad and use a GPS navigator to locate the nearest store. Users of other devices, including Blackberry and Android phones, can access the same services through the CVS mobile site, m.cvs.com .
Rite Aid : In September, Rite Aid introduced the option for customers to opt in to receive alerts about their prescriptions via text message,e-mail or automated phone call. To opt in, customers should create a profile at www.myriteaid.com and select the appropriate option.
Target: Target has set up a dedicated mobile website, target.com/rx , where users can find a pharmacy, refill or transfer a prescription and enroll in auto refills.
Walgreens: Walgreens has apps for iPhone, Android and Blackberry users that allow customers to find the nearest pharmacy, order refills, access prescription records, view the weekly ad, make a personalized shopping list and even order prints of photos that they take with their mobile phones. The feature through which customers can scan the bar code on their prescription bottles to order refills is only available for iPhone and Android users at this time. More information is available at www.walgreens.com/ mobile .