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Italian Pharmacy Gains Loyalty With RFID

ASM Venaria's customers are using NFC-enabled cards to track prescription purchases and the results of screenings, such as those measuring glucose or blood pressure levels.
By Claire Swedberg
Oct 23, 2009In an effort to increase customer loyalty, Azienda Speciale Multiservizi (ASM) Venaria, a pharmacy chain in northwestern Italy, is offering an RFID-enabled card that allows its customers to create a health diary and track prescription purchases. After six months of piloting the system at a few of its stores, the company is now expanding its use to all 17 locations in the province of Turin.

In the future, customers can expect to use the cards for other services, such as redeeming coupons and discounts. ASM Venaria—owned by the city of Venaria Reale—is responsible not only for the pharmacies, but two other city services as well: cafeterias for Venaria's primary and secondary schools, and public transportation. Eventually, the ASM Card will also be employed by local students for cafeteria payments, as well as by children and adults for transportation on local buses.

Mario Corrado, director of ASM Venaria
For now, however, the company is operating the system only at its pharmacies. Five thousand customers have been using the card since May 2009, and based on the trial's success, the system will now be expanded to thousands more, enabling those customers to store and track data regarding the health services they receive at the pharmacy.

At ASM Venaria, and at all other Italian pharmacies, customers can not only fill prescriptions written by their physicians, and buy other personal or household items, they can also receive diagnostic and other basic health-care procedures, such as glucose, uric acid, cholesterol and blood-pressure tests, administered by a pharmacist or other clinical staff member. What's more, as a result of those procedures, Italian pharmacies can assist customers by booking medical examinations or clinical tests at public hospitals.

In 2007, ASM Venaria first began considering options to entice its customers to continue utilizing ASM's services exclusively for their health-care screening needs, says Mario Corrado, the company's director. The store considered a loyalty program based on discounts and rewards, but management felt that option seemed too much like a retail offering. In addition, Italian law prohibits promotions for medications, though it does allow promotions on non-medicinal items, such as toothbrushes and shampoos. ASM Venaria decided to develop an idea that was more than just a loyalty card—one that could also be used for health-care services. The result was the ASM Card, which contains a passive 13.56 MHz RFID tag compliant with the ISO 14443 standard.

Without the card, customers must track the records of their blood, blood pressure or other screening tests themselves, and the tests could be performed at any area drug store. With the ASM Card, however, customers have an incentive to continue returning to ASM Venaria stores for their medical procedures, as well as purchases, since a record of each visit can be stored on their card, or in a server accessible on the Internet. In addition, customers can provide the records to their physicians, and can also print the records and provide them to the government for tax purposes, or to insurance companies.

Individuals can sign up for the card on ASM Venaria's Web site, or at one of the company's stores. They can select whether their information will be stored on the server, which they can then access via a password and personal identification number, or whether the encrypted data will be stored only on the card tag's 2 kilobytes of memory. In the latter case, a person could still use the card to access discounts, as well as his or her health diary data, at any of the 17 ASM Venaria stores, and store the diary information directly on the tag, not on the server. If the data were stored only on the tag, however, that information could not be recovered in the event that a customer were to lose the card.

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