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How Does a Grocery Store Chain Kick the FDA, Pharma and Healthcare in the Butt When It Comes to Recalls

Posted Jan 19 2010 10:24am

Kick everyone else, well it appears they have a much stronger hold on this project than any other efforts I have seen out there when it comes to working with their customers and addressing these issues, and they use technology to do this.  Kroger, however, is no stranger to healthcare as they have their own efforts to speak of with their in store clinics and offering $4.00 generic drugs too.

Let’s go back a few months and think about the peanut recalls and I’m sure this is not too far back that everyone will remember what happened with the plant in Georgia being closed and all the companies that had to recall products made from their peanut products produced.  It appears Kroger had this dialed in and used technology to keep unhealthy products from reaching consumers, shame we can’t get our act together and learn from this.  Instead we mostly depend on a lot of manual methods that take longer to find lot numbers, put out news releases, etc. the entire rhetoric.  What did Kroger do different?    Read this from back in March of 2009: 

“This is a great example of using technology with tainted products, first of all, the recalled products wouldn’t scan at check out, and if you were identified by use of your Kroger card, you would get a message on your receipt that you had purchased a product that had in fact been recalled and an automated phone call from the computerized system.

Supermarkets across the country cleared the shelves of more than 2,600 items recalled after salmonella contamination was found in some products made by the Peanut Corp. of America.

The chain then made sure that mis-shelved products picked up elsewhere in the store couldn't be scanned by cashiers or at self-checkout counters.

"At an Irving store, I witnessed a customer in line ahead of me trying to buy protein bars," King said. "But the screen said: 'Item under recall. Do not sell.'"

Then someone in Kroger's consumer-safety department came up with the idea of using the chain's technology in two more ways: Shoppers holding the Kroger Plus card who had previously purchased any of the recalled items would receive a personalized message on their cash register receipt tape telling them to dispose of those products. The warning is repeated on their next visit.

The customer also receives an interactive voice response call from an automatic dialing system, informing them to dispose of items they purchased because of the salmonella list, King said.”

They used technology, customers couldn’t even buy a recalled product, so can we learn from this, you bet.  Will we make any efforts along this same line, big question as I seem to be addressing some deaf ears around here as I have posted since October of 2009 about technology that can handle this on a massive basis but I guess I am finding many who would rather see people die than stick a toe in the water and try.  When you look at what they have done, the customer is even identified via SQL computer language on an automated basis and called to advise them not to use the product and return it. 

I think we can learn from what Kroger is doing here.  I get tired of reading about people who die as a result of a device implanted that has been recalled and for some reason the hospital or doctor missed it and surgery proceeded.  In my opinion, this is something that could have been avoided, and again it appears we have so many just sitting in “tech denial” these days and as long as it’s no skin off their back, they do nothing.

If I were a patient requiring an implanted device, would I like to be assured I am not getting a defective device and know that it has not been recalled, you bet I would.  Here’s a “free” method that would serve as a back up, any Smartphone, BlackBerry, or iPhone for that matter could scan the package of a device and be notified of the recall, and get any updated safety information immediately.  Right now the system depend on emails, individuals reacting and taking action on the contents, etc. which would probably need to be continued anyway, but there’s a lot that gets missed here, not intentionally , but we are humans.  With all the cell phones we have, we would certainly have no lack of equipment to do this.

Windows Tags – Bar Coding Information Made Easy from your Cell Phone

What is even more interesting is that other companies in healthcare are looking at this technology too, to use Tags to input PHR, personal health record information easily into a health record with encrypting tags.  Can the “tech denial” crowd take a look and appreciate this?  I guess we have to wait until more die as a result of errors made with lack of interest with life saving technologies.  Sometimes I have to agree with Bill Maher, “we are stupid”.  We read article after article about how we have NO SYSTEM set up to handle this, and everybody does nothing.

In some other areas we have some really advanced technology like this company using RFID tags to monitor post surgical results for follow up after surgery. 

We also have companies that use RFID to ensure sponges are not left in a patient after surgery, but gee can we focus on the device from the start and make sure it has not been recalled?  We dance all around the rest of the story but have no back up to ensure this from the start.  We have companies like Dodge using this technology for PR and giving away prizes, again what’s up with a healthcare application?

Now let’s step back to the consumer recall side of this subject, and back to Kroger again. How is it that we don’t consider recalled over the counter drugs important enough to use a system that will advise us immediately.  I would love to have the ability to use my phone and scan a bottle of medications to make sure it was not missed and left on the shelf by accident, who wouldn’t.  Kroger, well they put the folks out pulling product, but they back it up with technology so in case this happens, the product cannot be purchased, gee what a novel idea and they have kicked everybody else in the butt in the process.

We can take this one step further and identify counterfeit drugs that get out there, a tag encrypted that leads to authentication.  These tags can be changed and updated too, so when a recall or safety issue comes out, it’s there.  Trident gum is using Tags to promote their gum too.  General Mills has tags on their food products in the grocery stores now, look for them.  

In the news this week, Tylenol recalls.  Would I like as a consumer to have the option to scan a bottle and make sure it’s not in the recall lot?  You bet I would.  As the system stands now I have to look for certain products, be sure I read up on all the news items put out there and look for this stuff, same thing with the counterfeit Alli product, a lot can be missed.  I worked in logistics for many years and did you know that depending on the level of sophistication in shipping and receiving with technology that manufacturers have to rely on the documents of the carriers to identify their own lot numbers and find out where they went as in house systems may not be up to date with all this information?  Thank goodness for the folks at companies like UPS and FedEx being up to date on their technology to help us out here. 

I started writing about this in October, even sent an email to the FDA, but not even the courtesy of a response that they received the email, again no skin off of someone’s back and “tech denial” being rampant, it was about what I expected.  I even thought these tags were a neat way to verify guests at the White House too, could have saved some real embarrassment there.

The problem here is focus and nobody seems to want to do any better here and as long as it is not personal and happening to them, well let’s just brush this one under the carpet for another day.  It is funny sometimes too I get emails from people telling me and asking if I knew there were personal health records available, and to that I answer yes, I have over 300 posts on the topic, read my blog.  I mention this as we have a real problem in the US with people that don’t read.  I post about updates and try to go the next level and connect the dots.  Journalists are my partners and do a good job in bringing the news to light, but with all the information today that is out there, you need a good blogger to “connect dots” and make it personal in how it may affect you, otherwise folks like me would not exist.

Tag services as such can also take advantage of cloud services too, this is public information I am talking about here. 

So once more I ask, what is wrong with the FDA, pharma and others in not wanting to make safety an easy and simple solution with instant information available?  Are we stupid?

As I always say “devices that report data” are such a gray area today as it is emerging and changing daily and “tech denial” seems to be so rampant, all the way up to Congress with lacking a full understanding of where all of this is going, mainly because they don’t participate and that goes for anyone who won’t try. 

When you see a grocery chain like Kroger moving in the right direction and staying on top of consumer awareness, should this not signal the FDA and Pharma to perhaps explore some of this technology?  Again, the Tags are the way of the future and stand to save lives, medical device manufacturer’s would need to put a Tag on their packaging, easily scanned by any individual at a hospital or doctor’s office to double check for recalls and safety information.

Over the counter drugs and food items, one scan and we as consumers know the product has been recalled or there’s other information to be seen.  This to me looks like the blind leading the blind here and all I do is continue to read day in and day out about no system being in place.  If you are not part of a solution, as the old saying goes, your are part of the problem and this is one huge problem that has some potentially simple solutions once we can get past some deaf ears.  In the meantime, we can watch Kroger with their fine example of using technology for consumer safety.  BD

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