CVS rolls out 'talking' prescription labels for visually impaired patients

The new Spoken Rx feature will be available in all CVS Pharmacy locations by the end of 2021, the company said. (CVS Pharmacy)

CVS Pharmacy has rolled out a new feature on its app that reads prescription information out loud to assist visually impaired patients.

The drugstore giant worked with the American Council of the Blind to design and test out the new feature. The feature, Spoken Rx, is the first in-app prescription reader application to be developed by a national retail pharmacy, according to CVS.

The in-app reader helps to avoid potentially detrimental errors, which are all too common for patients who are visually impaired or can’t read standard print labels, the company said.

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Special RFID labels will allow patients to scan their prescription bottles using Spoken Rx in the CVS app.

By the end of 2020, 1,500 CVS Pharmacy locations will be equipped to affix special RFID labels to prescription vials. The program will be available in all CVS Pharmacy locations by the end of 2021.

RELATED: Deaf people encounter communication struggles with doctors and in hospitals

When the RFID labels are scanned by the Spoken Rx feature in the CVS Pharmacy app, which can be accessed by users using Siri or Google Assistant on their phones, prescription label information will be spoken out loud. This information includes patient name, medication name, dosage, and directions.

The company will include additional information as part of the feature over the next several months, CVS said.

“The in-app feature gives patients more flexibility, providing the pertinent prescription information out loud wherever and whenever they need it,” said Ryan Rumbarger, senior vice president, store operations at CVS Health, in a statement.

RELATED: Amazon rolls out new Alexa feature to let consumers refill prescriptions

As of 2012, 4.2 million Americans aged 40 years and older suffer from uncorrectable vision impairment, out of which 1 million are blind, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That number is predicted to more than double by 2050 to almost 9 million due to the increasing epidemics of diabetes and other chronic diseases and the rapidly aging U.S. population, the CDC reported.

“Spoken Rx is a positive step that offers same-day, access for prescriptions filled in CVS stores, allowing for a greater level of privacy, safety, and independence for blind and visually impaired customers of all ages,” said Kim Charlson, immediate past president of the American Council of the Blind.

Tech giants also have been rolling out features to assist visually impaired patients. Amazon partnered with the U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS) to enable patients to access verified health information using Alexa devices. The NHS touts the initiative as particularly helpful for elderly patients, blind patients and those who cannot access the internet. By using Amazon’s voice-assisted technology, patients can use simple voice commands to get NHS-verified information in answer to their health-related questions.

CVS Pharmacy's new feature is an enhancement to existing braille, audio and large print accessible prescription label offerings provided by CVS Caremark and CVS.com.

Enrollment in the program can be done either over the phone or in a store where a pharmacist can ensure the patient’s app is appropriately set up for the service. 

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