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Winning Back Business

Remote Control by John Becker How a small but progressive pharmacy chain in Pennsylvania used remote dispensing technology to gain dozens of new customers and hundreds of new prescriptions per month — without hiring additional staff.


f a vending machine and an ATM met in pharmacy school, fell in love, and decided to start a family, what would their kids look like? Like ScriptCenter, of course.

The ScriptCenter, manufactured by Asteres, is indeed a sort of vending machine for prescriptions, and it turned out to be a key part of Kopp Drug’s strategy to win back a big chunk of its community business that was going to mail order. Here’s how it happened.

The Opportunity and the Challenge Kopp Drug is a nine-store chain based in Altoona, Pa. For the most part, business was good at the chain in the summer of 2011. But like most pharmacy owners, Kopp’s Morley Cohn was increasingly concerned about prescriptions he was disadvantaged to compete for, as insurance companies offered price incentives for customers to use mail order. Cohn decided it was time to fight back. Cohn leveraged the personal relationship he had with the administration at Altoona Regional Hospital — and the hospital’s own desire to direct as much plan volume as possible to local pharmacies — to get the hospital’s new insurance provider, Express Scripts, to make a major concession. They agreed to allow two of Kopp’s stores — one across the street from the hospital, the other a short drive away — to provide 90-day fills

for hospital employees at the same price as mail order (only charging a two-month co-pay) effective Jan. 1, 2012. Cohn first considered promoting the new arrangement as a way for patients to not only get better pricing, but to also receive all the benefits in-store shopping offers that mail order doesn’t — like being able to talk faceto-face with a pharmacist, having immediate access to medications, and shopping for OTC items. But with the hospital having over 6,000 employees, Cohn began to worry about how the volume increase — which he expected to be considerable — would impact operations at the two stores. Would he have to hire more staff so as not to sacrifice Kopp’s goal of providing the best possible customer service? Did their existing pharmacy management system have the “horsepower” necessary to take their business to this next level? Cohn knew he needed to find answers to these questions quickly.

Finding the Right Solution Kopp employee Debbie Summers heads up IT at the chain. She says their first decision was to switch over to HBS’s RxGENESYS PMS platform, installing the system chain-wide in the fall of 2011. continued on next page January/February 2013