I, Rxobot: eRxCity places pharmacy technology front and center
Upon entering eRxCity on the second floor of a medical building at the corner of Mott and Canal streets in Chinatown in New York City, the store’s whole concept becomes clear from a slogan printed on the wall across from a flat-screen TV showing Hong Kong soap operas: “The next generation pharmacy.”
When the pharmacy’s founders, sisters Yvonne Tsang and Priscilla Cheung (née Tsang), opened the store earlier this year, they had come from far outside the pharmacy world. Yvonne had worked on Wall Street, while Priscilla had worked in information technology. In many ways, however, their being outsiders resulted in the approximately 4,000-sq.-ft. store’s unique concept, which required a larger space than could be found on the building’s first floor. “We just knew we didn’t want to be like the other stores,” Priscilla told Drug Store News. But in addition to its design, a major part of the store’s concept is its emphasis on technology.
Rather than placing the pharmacy counter in the back of the store, they placed it near the entrance and made it lower so that the pharmacy robot, provided by ScriptPro, could be right behind the counter rather than hidden in the back, and customers can get a peak at it on their way to the private consultation rooms. “It’s because we’re promoting the use of technology,” Priscilla said. “So why not showcase it?”
Being at the center of Chinatown, the pharmacy serves a predominantly Asian population, one disproportionately affected by diabetes, cholesterol and hepatitis. In addition to language barriers, many in the community are slower to embrace new technology, so the whole idea is to make customers more comfortable approaching the counter, using technology and talking to the pharmacists, who can speak English, Mandarin and Cantonese. “[The pharmacist] is there to help people, like a physician,” Priscilla said. Much of eRxCity’s concept is based on the idea that pharmacy is fundamentally a service industry, she said.
Like many pharmacies, eRxCity offers home delivery of medications, but it also has marshaled technology for this purpose. The staff that delivers the medications carries a mobile tracking device, similar to the ones used by FedEx and UPS package deliverers. Medications and the deliverer’s badge are scanned at the pharmacy and again upon delivery. Upon delivery, the device displays the HIPAA form for the patient — or someone acting on the patient’s behalf — to view and sign, thus allowing the pharmacy to keep track of the medication from the point of entry to the point of sale. “We focus a lot on the efficiency so that our staff can focus on servicing the customer,” Priscilla said.
“We’re a community pharmacy, but we want to operate the back end like a chain,” Yvonne added.
So far, there aren’t any definitive plans to expand — the store only opened in May — but it’s something both sisters see happening in the future, particularly in New York’s Chinese-speaking communities. “We call ourselves ‘The Next-Generation Pharmacy’ because we’re thinking ahead into the future, not just five years but 10 years,” Priscilla said.
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that both sisters were surnamed Cheung. Their maiden name is Tsang.