Saturday, December 5, 2009

Automated -- prescription drug machines?

Filed under the "Why didn't I think about that?" department comes the story that after very successful pilot projects at Sunnybrook in Toronto and Cambridge Memorial (and now that they've been given official legal approval), an Oakville based company is getting ready to roll out the next new wave in self-serve machines. First came automated tellers, then the automated DMV / hunting / fishing license machines, and then self-service checkouts at supermarkets and department stores. Now will come a self-service machine that dispenses up to 2000 of the most popular prescription drugs.
The company insists that for security reasons some of the more dangerous drugs, i.e. those with street value, such as Oxycontin ™, will not be available through the machines -- you'll still have to go to a regular drug store for that. Also, having electronic drug records (which we're still way behind on, to our shame) is essential to ensure no negative drug interactions. Still, the ability to feed in one's prescription and have it ready in two to five minutes is, I think, a brilliant concept, especially since you'll still be able to consult with a real pharmacist via videoconference.
My main concerns -- First, the obvious privacy issues (even with a handset, who's to stop someone from eavesdropping unless it is in an enclosed space; as well as hacking). Second, more than ever this will require physicians to write prescriptions that are actually legible. On that end, the technology is there -- a doctor can and should type in a few keywords and have a computer printed Rx that is legible so there is no confusion.
Will this replace the neighbourhood drug store? No, nor should it.

But it gives us a choice. And in an era (my lifetime, actually) where we used to have six or seven chains but now we're effectively down to three or even two in some provinces (meaning higher prices), choice will drive down costs for everyone, which also saves money for the public system that pays drugs for indigents.
The big plus: This is a Canadian invention, that was done without interference from the "socialized bureaucracy that stifles innovation" the American opponents of universal coverage keep complaining about. Take that, HMOs -- or as Helen Hunt called you, Fucking Bastards.

Vote for this post at Progressive Bloggers.

No comments: