Are Drug-Dispensing Kiosks Coming to Pharmacy?

When I was a resident several years ago, I remember having a discussion with my co-residents. It was one of those moments where you try to think of a get-rich-schemes that come about when stress is present and deadlines are due and beepers paging. 

What it boiled down to was the creation of a 'Redbox' for pharmacy, that instead of giving out movies and games, dispensed medications. This wasn't necessarily revolutionary, and we knew it. There were machines at local hospitals that could dispense medications, and we had heard about a few physicians who had machines installed in their offices to dispense medications. But we were thinking of a community/box pharmacy-backed device available on every corner. It was a pipe dream, but lately it seems it may become a reality...

Walgreens Invests $30 Million into Drug Kiosks

This month [October,2014] Walgreens invested in a Series C round with MedAvail Technologies Inc. Essentially, MedAvail is making a kiosk that they compare to an ATM to dispense medications to patients, with counseling provided by a pharmacist digitally.

There is not much information on how this works, but I think it could be useful in certain situations. If it stored the top 100-200 most commonly prescribed medications, it could be beneficial for first-time fills when a pharmacy could be closed. Most chain pharmacies keep a 24-hour pharmacy operated in a district for that purpose, such as patients leaving the ER or being discharged from the hospital, or getting off an odd shift of work. Using these devices could reduce the cost of running such 24-hour pharmacies.

What are Some Drawbacks to Drug-Dispensing Kiosks?

Limitations I see of this would be drugs that need to be prepared. Such as children's antibiotics that often have to mixed and stored in the pharmacy until a patient's parents picks them up. I am unsure if this would be possible. Refills I do not think would be practical, as it would cause some logistical nightmares in a pharmacy processing autofills on their own.

Would these kiosks store controlled substances? I would hate to see them being smashed for their precious drugs, and can only imagine the security cameras showing individuals utilizing a sledgehammer to get at the drugs within.

Lastly, I do not see these kiosks being utilized by patients using another pharmacy. For instance, I cannot imagine them conducting transfers from CVS to Walgreens easily or in a timely manner, as it would still rely on the human interaction and law functions to contact and transcribe such prescriptions.

Lasting Thoughts

I will not be surprised to see these drug-dispensing kiosks being brought to the market in the near future. Providers would most likely enjoy them, especially at certain locals such as minute clinics. They could use e-prescribing to send the prescription directly to the kiosk for the patient to pick up the medication.

I feel that pharmacists themselves will have mixed feelings. This could open up a nice part-time job perhaps for individuals that want to work at home, similar to pharmacists who process prescriptions in hospitals in other states from home. Other issues would be the job aspect in terms will it replace certain job opportunities. 

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