Duane Reade on fast track with DR Express

September 26, 2005

Picture this scenario. A patient goes into a chain pharmacy, walks over to a kiosk, touches a bull's eye on a screen and is instantly connected with a pharmacy technician. They can see and hear each other, thanks to interactive video conferencing. The patient fills a new prescription, receives counseling from pharmacy staff, and orders OTC products. The order can be picked up at any of the chain's stores, or the items can be delivered free of charge.

Picture this scenario. A patient goes into a chain pharmacy, walks over to a kiosk, touches a bull's eye on a screen and is instantly connected with a pharmacy technician. They can see and hear each other, thanks to interactive video conferencing. The patient fills a new prescription, receives counseling from pharmacy staff, and orders OTC products. The order can be picked up at any of the chain's stores, or the items can be delivered free of charge.

Duane Reade, a regional chain with 250 stores in New York and New Jersey, is turning this scenario into reality with DR Express, an interactive pharmacy kiosk. The kiosk uses bandwidth technology, developed by New Edge Networks, which enables a high-speed video connection.

The kiosk is currently available in 15 Duane Reade stores as well as in 45 locations including companies such as Viacom, CitiGroup, Fox News Corp., Time Warner, and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The kiosk has also been installed in physicians' offices and hospital emergency rooms and clinics including Lenox Hill Hospital, Mount Sinai, Lutheran Medical Center, Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center, and Cabrini Hospital.

The first chain to enter into a licensing agreement with Duane Reade is Farmington, Conn.-based DrugMax.

Commenting on the agreement, James Beaumarriage, R.Ph., senior VP of pharmacy operations, Familymeds, said, "We have entered an agreement to license the technology for the purpose of utilizing the electronic kiosk technology and platform as we look to expand our business model, better positioning ourselves, and expanding our reach within existing medical campus locations and in certain other spots where we don't have a presence in a medical building or on a campus."

Installation of the kiosks is beginning this month. Five installations are slated for completion by the end of the year.

Beaumarriage said that in addition to increasing convenience for patients, the kiosks will purportedly improve patient compliance by "capturing the initial prescription, which in many cases never gets filled." He went on to explain that the kiosks would help the chain expand its reach and increase its market share at a minimal capital expense.

DrugMax plans to run a pilot test of the kiosks in the fourth quarter of 2005. If the pilot is successful, the company will aggressively expand the number of kiosks in 2006, according to Beaumarriage.

Pointing out that DrugMax developed a kiosk in 1999 that was deployed in physicians' offices and tied to its http://Familymeds.com/ Web site, Beaumarriage said, "We received lackluster acceptance. Six years ago the kiosk was fundamentally ahead of its time, but we did not have the interactive video teleconferencing. I think that's a key element."

David Siegel, Duane Reade's director of business development, agreed with Beaumarriage that the videoconferencing capability is what differentiates the chain's kiosks from any competitive pharmacy kiosks. Siegel said the kiosks have enabled Duane Reade to offer round-the-clock service in 24-hour stores in which the pharmacy is open only eight hours. "Customers can drop off their prescription, then go to one of our 24-hour stores to pick it up later or have the Rx delivered. We have 130 stores in Manhattan," he noted. Having a kiosk in stores that aren't very busy has enabled Duane Reade to provide customer service while shortening pharmacy hours in these stores and reducing operating costs.

While the kiosks draw an average of 50 to 60 prescriptions a week, Siegel said they have decreased pharmacists' workload. "The technicians at the central location near Union Square in Manhattan answer the calls. We are able to do a lot of work that the pharmacists in the store had to do, such as obtain information from the patient and adjudicate the claim."

Duane Reade plans to double the number of kiosks it installs from 60 to 120 next year. For more information, visit http://www.drexpress.com/.