KROGER PHARMACIES SET FOR ELECTRONIC PRESCRIPTION SERVICE

CINCINNATI -- Kroger Co. here will be the first supermarket to introduce by midsummer an electronic prescription service capable of transmitting physicians' scripts direct to 1,600 in-store pharmacies.Kroger Co. spokesman Gary Rhodes said in-store pharmacists can save valuable time by using the software program of PocketScript, and the services from its wholly owned subsidiary, ScriptConnect, both

CINCINNATI -- Kroger Co. here will be the first supermarket to introduce by midsummer an electronic prescription service capable of transmitting physicians' scripts direct to 1,600 in-store pharmacies.

Kroger Co. spokesman Gary Rhodes said in-store pharmacists can save valuable time by using the software program of PocketScript, and the services from its wholly owned subsidiary, ScriptConnect, both based here.

"Traditionally, prescriptions are written out by hand by the physician, and occasionally there can be problems reading the handwriting, in which case the technician has to call back the office to confirm the prescription," he said. "By using the [PocketScript] software, you take that step out of the equation." It allows the retailer's in-store pharmacy to operate more efficiently, and is a benefit for the customer, Rhodes added. "It's another step to ensuring accuracy."

Lincoln Lutz, Kroger Co.'s vice president of pharmacy merchandising and procurement, said in a press statement, "Our customers can be assured that the extra level of convenience and confidentiality offered by ScriptConnect will complement the high service goals of our in-store pharmacies."

"Any pharmacy that sets up prescriptions electronically is providing better service to its customers," said Mike McManus, president of ScriptConnect.

Neither Rhodes nor McManus disclosed financial terms. McManus said, "We haven't determined all the pieces yet."

McManus said that PocketScript works in conjunction with companies that provide similar services such as iScribe, San Mateo, Calif., and ParkStone, Weston, Fla., by furnishing an open, secure network. "Kroger likes it because we will accept transactions from other companies and Kroger only needs to have one connection," said McManus. If a doctor used a different electronic prescription program, ScriptConnect still provides communication between physicians and retail pharmacists like Kroger.

"This is an enabling tool to better help the pharmacists and physicians with their communication, and give better patient care," he said.

McManus said the company is in undisclosed talks with other supermarkets, while Drug Emporium, Powell, Ohio, will be the first drug store chain to integrate the system. It also is targeting midsummer for installation, he said.

The PocketScript program works by ScriptConnect sending a transaction from a handheld electronic device or standard computer, and ScriptConnect will forward those transactions to Kroger. It also works vice versa. "On the reverse side, when Kroger has a renewal request for a doctor, they will be able to send those requests to ScriptConnect, and we will disseminate them out to the doctor," McManus said.

By the end of 2001, approximately 50,000 physicians out of 600,000 will use some sort of "e-prescribing" technology, McManus said.