Time for Pharmacists to Step Up

So, yesterday at work, I received a phone call from this pleasant, yet concerned individual who has some medication questions.  No problem I thought.  I always advocate the process of developing a relationship with your community pharmacist so, when questions arise, you have a reliable resource that you may call and ask questions.

The idea is that you may call in to the pharmacy where you fill your prescriptions, ask to speak with the pharmacist, and then proceed to ask your medication question.  The pharmacist should have, at their fingertips, your patient profile, including a list of your allergies and all of the medications you are currently taking and have recently taken.

This individual immediately breaks into her question about anti-depressant therapy in combination with some other medication, the dosages etc…  Before she gets too far I interrupt and ask who I am speaking with so I may look up her profile to get a better idea of what we are talking about.  The issue is, she has never filled a prescription with us.

She goes on to explain that she uses XYZ Chain Store Pharmacy in town that is close to her home; however, she states she can never speak to the pharmacist.  She has tried calling in but she states she gets put on hold for an extended period of time and when she finally gets someone on the line she gets put on hold again.  She continues with the process, describing that when she is in the store she always declines the consultation because the make her feel like she is interrupting their busy schedule.

I explain to this individual that before we go any further we need to have a short discussion.  I tell her that I understand her concern about bothering the pharmacist; however, that is exactly what she needs to do.  The pharmacy where you fill your prescriptions is the pharmacy that you need to call for questions about your medications. 

We continue the process of her question, with the understanding that I would be more than happy to transfer her prescriptions to our store, and then continue to provide medication counseling services to her on a regular basis.  We again discuss the importance of maintaining a relationship with a pharmacy and a pharmacist so that they may reasonably evaluate your medication profile prior to answering any significant medication questions.

OK, so now we can discuss the current question at hand.  After a couple minute conversation we have come to a reasonable understanding and we say our goodbyes. 

The problem is, pharmacists work under tremendous pressure and quite often, the extra time spent with a patient means less time to get the work done behind the counter.  This is not a new problem, we all know about it and it is currently being addressed on many levels.

One simple solution; visit three or four local pharmacies.  Include an independent pharmacy, chain store, supermarket and big box retail store.  Stand back and watch the pharmacy for 5 or 10 minutes and take in what you see.  Do the pharmacists look like they have enough time do the work in front of them, is there a patient counseling area that appears relatively private, are the clerks at the front counter pleasant with the customers, and how many patients are in line or waiting for their prescriptions?

Next, step up to the counter and ask to speak with the pharmacist.  Explain to the pharmacist that you are considering transferring prescriptions to their store and you would like to know what sort of service they offer.  Believe me; if you visit four different pharmacies and follow through with this little exercise, you will have a clear idea of which pharmacy is the one for you.


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