GIANT FOOD AUTOMATES RX REFILL PICKUPS

LANDOVER, Md. - Giant Food here has installed an automated refill prescription pickup kiosk in its Reston, Va., store.The technology, the first of its kind in the eastern U.S., called ScriptCenter, from Asteres, San Diego, is a high-security kiosk that can be accessed whenever the supermarket is open, allowing customers to pick up refills even when pharmacy and store hours differ."Virginia is the

LANDOVER, Md. - Giant Food here has installed an automated refill prescription pickup kiosk in its Reston, Va., store.

The technology, the first of its kind in the eastern U.S., called ScriptCenter, from Asteres, San Diego, is a high-security kiosk that can be accessed whenever the supermarket is open, allowing customers to pick up refills even when pharmacy and store hours differ.

"Virginia is the only state in our trade area that allows the pickup of refill prescriptions after pharmacy hours, so this is a unique situation for us," said John Fegan, senior vice president, pharmacy, Ahold USA, Braintree Mass., parent company of Stop & Shop Supermarket Co., Quincy, Mass., which operates Giant Food. The retailer had to obtain approval from the Virginia Board of Pharmacy to test the dispensing machine in that state.

To use the ScriptCenter unit, customers must complete a one-time registration and then order their refill prescription as usual with their pharmacist.

"The ScriptCenter has been functional for three weeks, but we spent a lot of that time getting customers registered," Fegan said.

He would not comment on the exact number of customers registered but said that the service has seen healthy growth early on. "In the last three weeks, the customers in this area have embraced the technology."

In using the kiosk, the pharmacist refills the prescription and places it into a labeled, bar-coded and sealed bag that is unique to each prescription. The bag is loaded into the ScriptCenter, and upon pickup the kiosk reads the bar code to match the prescription.

The unit then instructs each customer to check their package as a final verification.

If a customer has any questions during an after-hours pickup, there is a phone available for them to call a pharmacist at a 24-hour store, Fegan said.

As far as expansion, "we are going to wait and see how this works out, just like with anything, we aren't going to go out and purchase a hundred of these right away," Fegan said. The expansion also depends on state approvals, industry observers said.

In an effort to take some pressure off the pharmacists, the Reston store also recently installed an automated workflow and pill counting unit from ScriptPro, Mission, Kan., further automating the pharmacy operations.

"This technology has upped the speed and service for our customers, giving us the soft benefit of fitting our operations into their lifestyle in the manner of telebanking and ATMs," Fegan said.