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Winter 2012 Refills on the Run

A new self-serve concept gives customers fast access to refills of popular prescription drugs.

Imagine being able to get prescriptions refilled through an automated machine without having to wait in line at the pharmacy counter. That is exactly what Medbox does.

The automated prescription refill kiosk is produced by AVT, Inc., (formerly Automated Vending Technologies) of Corona, CA, in partnership with Medicine Dispensing Systems of Los Angeles, and has been awarded a U.S. Patent for a medicine-dispensing machine.

The product, which was released in February 2010, is now in about 80 institutional pharmacy locations such as hospitals, urgent-care centers and alternative medicine clinics. The company is aggressively targeting independent and chain pharmacies for expansion.

Vincent Mehdizadeh, Founder of Medicine Dispensing Systems, says that patients can sign up for a card from their pharmacist. If the patient takes a medicine that is available through the Medbox machine, the pharmacist will load the card with the customer’s insurance and prescription information, as well as a credit card for co-pays. Once a patient is registered and has a card, he or she swipes the card in the Medbox machine and goes through a fingerprint verification process. After the identity is confirmed, a touchscreen is used to complete the prescription refill transaction. The medicine is dispensed right from the machine and the patient’s credit card is automatically charged.

Safety and security

The Medbox machine has 60 different slots to hold the most popular drugs such as antibiotics, painkillers, and other drugs. Each slot can hold 15 vials and is filled by the pharmacy staff to ensure accuracy. The individual pharmacist decides which drugs to stock in the machine.

“The medicines get checked by both a pharmacist and a technician before placing it in the correct slot in the Medbox machine. Once the medicine is in the machine in the accurate slot, the machine is 100 percent accurate,” Mehdizadeh says.

In order to avoid prescription medicine abuse, the machine is programmed to know how many refills a patient is allowed and won’t dispense more than the allotted amount of meds. Once someone’s refills have been reached, the doctor will need to approve additional refills for the patient before he or she can obtain them from the Medbox machine.

Benefits

One of the advantages of the kiosk is having access to refills after hours. “If you go to a 24-hour Rite Aid for example, the pharmacy department isn’t open 24 hours. But if there’s a Medbox at the location, you can get a refill anytime,” Mehdizadeh says. Along with the after-hours benefits, Medbox also helps process routine refill claims faster.

“It lessens the burden on the employees,” Mehdizadeh says. “Since the Medbox is only used for refills, it doesn’t replace people; it just streamlines the process. They can focus on things other than handling refills.” This means more time for counseling patients on new medications and other tasks behind the counter.

Expansion

Although the Medbox machines are currently only located in hospitals and other institutional pharmacies, the plan is to target retail pharmacies next. “Currently the aim for expansion is to get our products in as many different states as possible,” Mehdizadeh says.

Right now each machine is connected only to the location where it sits, but down the road it may be possible for multiple pharmacies to channel dispensing through one machine.

The team behind Medbox is confident that pharmacies will be using kiosks and other automation to help do their jobs more efficiently. “Everything is heading toward automation. I think eventually every pharmacy in the country will have one of these.”

For more information, please visit www.thedispensingsolution.com.


Kristin Larson Contino

Kristin Contino is a freelance writer and copy editor based in Philadelphia. She writes for a variety of print publications and blogs, and also covers women's fiction for examiner.com.

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