SAN DIEGO -- With dazzling new technology on display at trade show booths, "Today's Future" was an apt slogan for the 39th annual Pharmacy Conference of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, held here Aug. 25 to 28.
More than 1,600 retailers and suppliers attended the conference, according to preliminary NACDS attendance figures. The conference, which took place at the San Diego Marriott & Marina, included a trade show at the adjacent San Diego Convention Center.
Among the many supermarket chains sending representatives to the four-day meeting were Stop & Shop Cos., H.E. Butt Grocery Co., Kroger Co., Supervalu, Vons Cos., Wakefern Food Corp., Tops Markets, Fry's Food Stores of Arizona and Albertson's.
Judging by the conference buzz at the trade show, innovative technology that promises to revolutionize the pharmacy business and disease state management are two of the hot trends in pharmacy. These topics were key themes in several conference speeches, workshops, meetings and discussions SN had with supermarket pharmacists during the conference.
"Technology changes are the big thing here," said John Fegan, vice president of pharmacy at Stop & Shop, Quincy, Mass.
"The technology on display [at the trade show] is pretty revolutionary," said Daniel Ramirez, vice president of the pharmacy division at Wakefern Food Corp./ShopRite, Jamesburg, N.J. "It's exciting, it will make pharmacists more efficient and pharmacies more profitable."
At trade show booths, buyers learned about computer software programs that assist pharmacists with third-party bookkeeping and billing. Suppliers were offering sophisticated telephone and computer systems that transmit prescriptions and refill orders from physicians to pharmacists. There was also health care equipment on display that pharmacists are increasingly using.
Speaking about a futuristic trend called "telemedicine" at the first-day business program, Jay H. Sanders, president of the American Telemedicine Association, said health-care kiosks will be found in the back of every pharmacy and doctors will make electronic "house calls."
Another future trend noted for retail pharmacy will be a greater use of technicians to dispense prescription drugs, predicted Robert Henry, adjunct professor at Auburn University School of Pharmacy, Auburn, Ala.
As for pharmacists, Henry said, "It's the words we use that will determine how successful we are going to be." Personal, family-oriented pharmacy distinguishes pharmacists from the competition and helps them to compete with mail-order, Henry said. "Disease- state management is the future of our profession."