Archive for Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Innovations inspire Russian visitors

March 26, 2003

For Lyubov Ustinova, the accomplishments at Tonganoxie's Right Choice Pharmacy are fascinating.

And they've sparked the Russian pharmacist to think about how she might change the Vladivostok pharmacy where she works as director.

"This is a unique facility," Ustinova said last Wednesday, speaking through an interpreter.

Ustinova and nine other Russians, along with an interpreter and a coordinator, spent three weeks in northeastern Kansas, learning about pharmacies and drug stores. The delegation, which was hosted by the Lawrence Breakfast Optimist Club, lived with Lawrence families. The visit was coordinated through the Center for Citizens Initiatives in San Francisco.

They toured numerous health-related companies, including Right Choice Pharmacy's plant in the Urban Hess Business Center in Tonganoxie.

Right Choice was established as a way for pharmacies to compete with mail-order business, while at the same time allowing pharmacists to counsel patients about the drugs they're taking. Pharmacies send prescriptions to Right Choice, which fills them and sends the pharmaceuticals to the pharmacies -- all with a one-day turnaround."We pay the pharmacist to counsel the patient," Right Choice president and co-founder Kent Richardson told the Russian delegation. "In addition, because we have much larger volume, we can buy better and we will pass our buying power through increased volume back to the pharmacies."

After hearing about the intricacies of how Right Choice works, the Russians viewed the process first-hand. The group watched as bottles headed down a conveyor belt, where they were filled with pills -- all without human intervention.

The automation used at Right Choice is not available in Russia and the Russians hadn't heard of mail-order prescriptions, so the tour of the Tonganoxie company prompted many questions. But it also spurred the delegation to think of their own companies' futures.

"We are convinced of the brilliancy of this idea, and it has potential," said Ustinova, who has been a pharmacist for 30 years. "Now we've started thinking how could we reproduce this idea."

She said the trip has paid dividends, as she collected many ideas throughout her stay in Kansas. In fact, she had talked on the telephone with her professional colleagues before she left the state.

"I talked enthusiastically about these automated systems," she said, "and if we try really hard in two years we could buy one. They are waiting there for me and my new ideas. They're impatient."

Ustinova, on her third trip to the United States, said her fellow travelers also would take home more than information about business.

"We're very impressed by American friendliness," she said. "We will keep that in our hearts."

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