Computer kiosks aid pharmacy needs

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA We will all sit at our home computers and browse through the internet for half an hour or an hour, but we really need that information while we're in the store - now we can have it.

Time can certainly slip away from you as you stand in the medicine aisle -- comparing all the different /*cold and allergy medicines*/ out there. Charlie Koo experienced this problem when he went to buy some medicine for his kids.

"It took way too long. So on my home, I thought there's got to be a better way to solve the problem," said Charlie Koo, Evincii CEO.

Koo now thinks he has found the solution. He has brought a search engine to the store.

His interactive kiosks prompt you to select your symptoms -- then the computer does a search for you. It comes up with a list of medicines that should cure what ails you, offers you a look at the label and even tells you where to find it on the shelf. It does all of this rather quickly. Koo realizes you aren't going to spend as much time searching this computer as you would your home computer.

"Here people are probably willing to give us the benefit of the doubt for about 10 to 20 seconds and that's all we got," said Koo.

The kiosks can be found in 135 Longs Drug stores. Koo says he has contracts signed with other major chain stores but isn't ready to announce the names yet. But not every store is going to welcome these computers with open arms.

"It was interesting but it didn't give you enough information," said Alan Wong, pharmacist.

Alan Wong of the Medicine Shop in Orinda went to Longs to check out the kiosk. He liked the idea, but he still prefers meeting with his customers rather than having them deal with a computer.

"There's no way you can cut out the pharmacist. We still need the human touch. I'm sorry, we do need that," said Wong.

Koo says he doesn't want to cut out the pharmacist -- he just wants to provide another source of information.

"Sometime's pharmacists are busy and you have to stand in line along with all the people standing in line for prescription drugs," said Koo.

He says the company used a panel of six pharmacists to review and approve all of the computers results for them.

So we went to the most important judge in all of this for a verdict - a consumer. We asked a Walnut Creek shopper to try the system. Linda Gasowski didn't have any problems zipping through the prompts and then went straight to the medicine that the machine would work best for her sick father.

"It was very easy to use and if you're looking for something and not real sure what do - it leads you right to it," said Linda Gasowski, shopper.

Evincii's kiosk is called /*PharmAssist*/. The stores don't pay to have it in the aisle. Evincii makes its money by selling advertising that you'll see as you browse the system. The CEO insists the advertisers don't get special treatment when it comes to listing the drugs that would treat your symptoms.

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