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Pharmacies let their labels do the talking

Pharmacies let their labels do the talking

Big Y Pharmacies in Longmeadow, Mass., and Rocky Hill, Conn., are among those adding large print and electronic “talking” labels to medications for the visually impaired.

“We wanted to provide this as an additional service to our customers,” explained Nicole Schneider, senior manager of pharmacy operations at Big Y, Springfield, Mass.

The large-print label, called ScripView, is booklet-style and designed for those with low vision. It is attached to the prescription container and includes the same information as the pharmacy’s regular label.

Big Y Pharmacy is offering “talking” prescription labels embedded with a microchip and used with a special reader.
Big Y Pharmacy is offering “talking” prescription labels embedded with a microchip and used with a special reader.

The talking label, called ScripTalk, is embedded with a microchip that’s programmed with all the printed label data. At home, the patient places the container on a small handheld reader and presses a button to listen for their name, the drug name and instructions, pharmacy contact information, warnings and more.

Big Y provides these labels to customers free of charge. The readers are loaned to pharmacy customers and sent via mail, also at no cost to the user, by En-Vision America, provider of the labels and  related technology.

Before medication is dispensed “The pharmacy encodes an RFID label sticker and it stores all the printed label information,” said Anna McClure, director of marketing at En-Vision America. “We provide the patient a small handheld reader. They turn it on, it reads the chip and speaks all the label information in a natural-sounding computerized voice.”

Big Y chose to use the labels at two locations since these are the only Big Y Pharmacies that dispense mail-order prescriptions, Schneider said.

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Mail orders were available exclusively to Big Y employees, but the retailer opened the pharmacy service to customers so that they can take advantage of the new labels. Delivery fees apply.

“Even people out in Boston who aren’t necessarily close to any of our pharmacy stores can fill their prescriptions and we’ll mail them out to them,” Schneider said.

Labels for the visually impaired have been in use by the Department of Veteran Affairs for about 10 years, but were recently adopted by independent pharmacies, CVS, Walmart, Hy-Vee and others, said McClure.

A booklet-style, large print label is available upon request at Big Y Pharmacy
A booklet-style, large print label is available upon request at Big Y Pharmacy

Interest in large print, braille and talking labels has been driven, in part, by updates to the Americans with Disabilities Act, said McClure.

Under the ADA, pharmacies must “furnish auxiliary aids when necessary to ensure effective communication, unless an undue burden or fundamental alteration would result.”

The labels help improve prescription drug adherence.

“There are stories of terrible mix-ups and mistakes,” said McClure. “These labels give patients independence.”

Indeed, in the past, consumers with visual impairments have been so desperate for help that they’ve relied on strangers to help them read their prescription bottle, according to McClure.

“They totally had to give up their privacy,” she said.

En-Vision is driving business to Big Y Pharmacies by making visual impairment centers in Connecticut and Massachusetts aware of the labels’ availability at Big Y, Schneider said.

Big Y likewise publicizes the service with posters, tear-off cards and counter signs.

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