By Jason Stone, INDEPENDENT NEWSMEDIA
A Toronto-based medical technology company is banking on Americans changing the way they get their prescriptions.
And, Surprise residents will be among the first to get in on the revolution.
Spot Rx, and its parent company MedAvail, has installed its 12th prescription kiosk across Arizona in the main Ottawa University building, 15950 N. Civic Center Plaza, next to City Hall, 16000 N. Civic Center Plaza. It’s the first of its kind in the West Valley, and more are planned for other places across Surprise later this year.
Mayor Skip Hall and other dignitaries were on-hand March 27 when the ATM-like unit was officially unveiled on the OUAZ campus.
“Our goal is put the control of the pharmacy experience in the consumer’s hand,” said Will Misloski, the chief marketing officer for MedAvail. “If you look at what Netflix did to Blockbuster, if you look at what Uber did to taxis, they put control in the consumer’s hands. That’s how I look at what we are doing.”
Patients who use the kiosk will have access to 600 medications loaded into the machine. In addition, a video chat is available to talk in English or Spanish to a pharmacist on a large vertical touch screen.
The kiosk comes with two speakers on each side and a telephone receiver to talk to the pharmacist more privately.
Mr. Hall tested out the machine during the ribbon-cutting ceremony and seemed to be enjoying the experience. He was also amazed the medications fit inside.
“You go by these pharmacies at CVS and Walmart, and they have shelves and shelves of drugs,” Mr. Hall said after looking at the kiosk. “I thought, ‘How do they do that?’
ShopRx was borne out of a series of surveys MedAvail conducted with 1,800 consumers about how they felt about their current pharmacy experiences.
“They were saying the same things over and over and over,” Mr. Misloski said. “I’m tired of waiting in line. I’m tired of bad customer service. I’m tried of getting up there and being charged $400 when I thought it was going to be $200. And really just the inconvenience of the current pharmacy experience.”
So MedAvail took those complaints and decided to build their own mobile pharmacy, something Mr. Misloski calls a “multi-channel pharmacy.”
How it works
When patients call a pharmacist, they’ll be connected with one at a central location in Phoenix or Tucson. Those pharmacists’ sole jobs are to take calls and questions from patients who need them at one of the kiosks across the state.
Otherwise, the kiosk allows patients to transfer a prescription through their phones or scan a paper script and pick up their medications, even over-the-counter drugs. The kiosk accepts insurance as well as scripts for uninsured individuals.
The machine will be able to fill about 95 percent of drug patients’ request. Company officials will monitor the numbers to see which ones may need to be switched out for future machines planned for the city.
“We worked with Ottawa to say, ‘What are the medications we want to have in this machine?’ Mr. Misloski said. “We built a formulary. And what will happen is as the machines get used, we’ll adapt the formulary for this location.”
The machines aren’t stocked with controlled substances or ones that need to be refrigerated. Mr. Misloski said negotiations are ongoing with Drug Enforcement Agency officials about the future legality of putting controlled substances in the machine.
OUAZ Vice President and Provost Dennis Tyner said it was a no-brainer to bring the kiosk on to the campus.
“We have a number of students who need prescription drugs or just need over-the-counter medications and they will have the opportunity to do that right here on campus instead of going elsewhere,” Mr. Tyner said. “That just speaks volumes of how valuable that’s going to be to them.”
Mr. Tyner said having the kiosk on campus is also a great way to advertise the campus to the community.
“This will bring people into our place and let them know that we exist,” he said. “We’re still new here. The more people know about us, the more it’s going to assist in our growth opportunities in the future.”
SpotRx plans to launch 40 new mobile pharmacies across the state by the end of the year.
“We chose Arizona because Arizona is a technologically inventive state,” Mr. Misloski said. “It was a really good fit for us to launch this pharmacy here.”
Most of the pharmacies are in the Phoenix and Tucson metro areas.
Surprise is in line for a few more machines, once the company crunches the numbers for the OUAZ one. They want to see what drugs the community needs most and where the best places to put the kiosks will be.
“This is the cutting edge of technology in the world of pharmaceutical drugs and drugs in general,” Mr. Tyner said. “It’s the new Uber of drugs. It’s delivering drugs to where you’re at. You don’t have to go to them. They go to you, and this is just the beginning.
“And for an institution like Ottawa University to be cutting edge that’s who we believe we are.”
For a complete list of kiosk locations, log on to spotrx.com/locations.
Editor’s note: Jason Stone can be reached at 623-445-2805, on email at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @thestonecave.