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Behind The Scenes: The Mobile Prescription Alert Ideas That Winn-Dixie Rejected

November 3rd, 2011

But there was fear that it could backfire. Even though providing a number is better than providing nothing, the fear was that some customers might get irritated and frustrated by being told a number and not a name. Once customers are aggravated that way, telling them that it’s a government rule isn’t likely to make them happy. The RX number plan was abandoned.

Another discussion involved allowing customers to download the full Winn-Dixie mobile app, which provides secure access to the patient’s full records. If customers have the full app, why would they need the text alerts? The answer is that the text is so much faster and easier, and it would serve as a reminder to check the full app. That full app would then display the full prescription numbers, to decode the text alert.

That still didn’t support the argument for using the RX numbers, though. A generic text alert (“You have a prescription that needs refilling”) would also remind someone to use the app, and it would not force the customer to look up any numbers. The app would visually flag anything needing renewal, making the number irrelevant and needlessly time-consuming.

Yet another option that Winn-Dixie’s mobile vendor (mscripts) investigated for the chain was to deploy secure text messaging. But that also didn’t pan out, said mscripts CEO Mark Cullen. “It required too much software to download on the phone” to handle the encryption/decryption functions and “there’s no standard for it yet,” so it wasn’t clear whether it would be viable for other chains, Cullen said. And when the standard is agreed on, everything would have to change anyway.

Another option considered was a way to narrowly avoid the HIPAA rules. Technically, customers can text the names of the drugs to themselves, so Winn-Dixie tried setting up a system to make it easy for customers to create calendar reminders so they could in effect remind themselves.

The chain also decided to give customers the ability to save their password on the phone. This, of course, raises the risk that if the phone is lost or stolen, anyone in possession of the phone could access everything. “We have enabled [the password remembering function], but we leave that choice to the guest,” Bell said.

The chain ended up using push notifications from the mobile app, which can issue the alerts from a secure environment. It’s not as simple as a text, but it’s secure and it works cleanly.


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