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RFID Speaks Up for Prescription Labels

Sam's Club and Walmart are the latest pharmacy chains to announce that they are using an HF RFID-based solution from En-Vision America that reads prescription data on a medication's tag, then audibly reads that information to a visually impaired patient.
By Claire Swedberg
Aug 20, 2019

Sam's Club and Walmart pharmacies have announced their use of a talking medication solution that leverages RFID technology across all the retailers' pharmacies nationwide. The solution, deployed this summer, employs 13.56 MHz HF RFID tag reads to identify a bottle of medication, access data about that drug from the bottle's tag, and then read out those details for patients. The technology, provided by En-Vision America, is intended to help the blind access their prescription information.

Walmart and Sam's Club (a wholesale club owned by Walmart) initially piloted the technology at three pharmacies, beginning in 2012, then expanded to 1,200 stores. Now, the company is committing to providing the technology at all pharmacies, at the request of patients. Those with vision impairments often struggle to access information about the medications they are taking. Although prescriptions on medicine bottles can be printed in large print, that isn't enough for some patients.

En-Vision America's ScripTalk station
En-Vision America is a technology firm focused on assisting those with vision impairments. The company has provided assistive technology for the visually impaired since 1996, according to David Raistrick, En-Vision America's VP and co-founder. It has offered systems such as a talking barcode scanner, as well as braille and large print. The talking prescription labels are the first of its products to employ RFID technology to identify an item and access content that is then spoken to a user. VA hospitals have been the earliest adopters of an RFID-based solution from the firm, known as ScripTalk. The solution employs an HF RFID printer and reader, compliant with the ISO 15693 standard, as well as a read station and tags that are attached to each medication bottle.

Pharmacies acquire En-Vision America's Sciptability software, which integrates with their own prescription-management software. They also need the tags, which store written data. They can either print the labels with RFID tags built into them, using the ScripTalk printer (the 220-Z printer can print and encode a standard prescription label), or they can manually apply a one-inch-round medallion ScripTalk label to the bottom of each prescription bottle, which is already encoded and ready for data to be written to it. The pharmacy using the round label would still print a standard label for such details as the RX number that is affixed around the side of the container.

The ScripTalk station used in the pharmacy, Raistrick explains, comes with a USB cord to connect directly to a PC running the Scriptability software, which utilizes a text-to-speech feature. First, a patient requests the ScripTalk service when the prescription is ordered. The pharmacist then either prints the RFID-enabled label or uses adhesive to place the pre-encoded, disk-shaped RFID label on the bottom of the container.

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