Facebook and Twitter

and follow my blog on Twitter @pharmacynic to receive notifications on new posts.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Expectation vs. Reality--Redux

When do you eat dinner?  Let us suppose you make dinner reservations at a lovely bistro where they open for dinner at 5pm.  At what time do you arrive?  At what time will you have eaten?  Expectation-5pm.  Reality, depending on aperitifs and dessert and all that comes in between, 6 or 7?
Now how in the hell are you going segue this into the real world of retail pharmacy, Mr. Cynic?  Watch carefully as those creative writing classes bear fruit.  Please pause here to reread "Refill Too Soon", I'll wait.  Welcome back.  Continue.

A fine upstanding customer, usually on some type of controlled medication is told it is too soon to be filled until some day in the future.  On that bright, sunny morning, the birds are singing, the sky is clear, and a car is parked at my drive-thru.  The time: 08:35 am  Pharmacy opens at 09:00am.  As the work day dawns and the gates rise and the curtain at drive-thru lifts, the first customer of the day asks for his prescription and, after a lot of searching, is told it is not ready.  This angers Mr. First-customer-of-the-day, he who has been in line all alone for 25 minutes.  "But I was told it was too soon until today.  Why isn't it ready?"
Well, see sir, we just opened, literally.  The restaurant doesn't prepare your food before you arrive to order it and I don't process prescriptions before I arrive at my store.  Unfortunately, we had tried to train little gnomes to sneak in at night and process that day's refills between 3am and 7am, but they were not reliable.  They kept leaving little presents for us in the bottles and ate all our donuts.  Don't even get me started on what we found in the coffee pot.  Therefore, since I cannot fill anything, as in do any work until I am physically in my store and we are actually open, you need to wait.  About 20 minutes ought to do it.
Hey, what time did you wake up today to be here so early?  I see.  Did you eat breakfast before or after that?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Manners--Pay Attention

"Shut up when I'm talking to you!"  (Linkin' Park)
"Children should be seen, not heard" (Some grumpy old guy)

Both of these fittingly apply to the Pharmacist-Customer interaction.  You ask me a question.  Pause.  I answer your question, uninterrupted and you nod accordingly.  When I am done, you may follow with another question or statement, perhaps a simple "thank-you".  If you want an answer, shut up and wait for it.  If I am talking and you keep interrupting me, you are not hearing me and I'm getting quite irritated.  At this point, it would be unwise of you to ask a favor of me.
Everyone can identify with the customer who asks for a refill only for us to tell her it is too old.  While explaining that prescriptions do expire (it's like a law thing, ya' know?), you are always interrupted with "but I have to have this or I'll die!  My doctor said I'd be on it every day until I die.  I've been out of this for 3 days now (and yet here you are, undead, at my counter, dammit!)  so you need to call my doctor and get me a refill right now!".
Um, I went to school to be a pharmacist, not your Bitch!  Had you been nice (oh dear, it expired, but what is a poor little old lady to do sweetykins?), I would have gladly offered to front you a couple pills and call your doctor.  But don't expect it.  Don't demand it.  Don't threaten me either.  My favourite threat is when people say "I'm going to Derelict's Pharmacy across the street".  Good.  It's about time.  Go treat someone else like shit for a change.  However, the thing that really bothers me, is that they're like a boomerang.  They keep coming back.  Why?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Mail Order Bitches

I am your bitch.  Not only has my profession sold out with transfer coupons, free meds, 15-minute guarantees, and a lack of respect on Capitol Hill, we've given way too much power to mail order over the last 15 years that we're just their bitch as retail pharmacists.
It began inauspiciously enough.  They were a bastard stepchild of retail pharmacy.  When Rite Aid acquired PCS insurance in 1998, the entire industry was in an uproar that it would stifle competition and force customers to only utilize Rite Aid pharmacies.  Under a lot of pressure and SEC issues, the partnership was dissolved.  Around the same time, Merck bought Medco.  No one batted an eye at this collaboration.  Suddenly, employers forced their employees to use mail order and Merck brands were preferred everywhere.  Surprising, no?  What happened next was a way for mail order to not only push us down, but to kick us in the head, piss on our faces, and ask us to smile about it all at the same time; it was called the 14-day mail order override.  Instead of us just billing a prescription and getting a receipt, we needed to process it, get the rejection from the insurance, call the insurance, wait for the override, reprocess it, then finish the prescription.  In other words, it took at least double the work for half a prescription.  Until Walgreen's stood up and said "NO!", we continued to take it.
A side effect of all of this was customers came to us for their non-maintenance meds, but continued to ask questions about their mail order stuff.  Great, that's my job.  However, it has evolved to where we field questions such as "my mail order sent me something different than what you gave me.  What is it?  Is it the same thing?".  My recent interaction went like this: "I used to get this prescription, but they sent me this instead.  I went to my doctor who sent the prescription to mail order and he said he can't help and that I should come here".  Awesome!  So your doctor who wrote your prescription wouldn't help you?  So he sent you to me, a pharmacist, at a store where you do not do business?  And somehow, with only the fact that you are standing in front of me as proof that this is real, I am supposed to answer a question about a new med your doctor wrote and you had filled at not only another pharmacy, but a mail order pharmacy?  Great, could you give me less to go on?
Yes, this is no different than if you went to a competitor across the street, except that they are just as accessible as I am.  In fact, I can call them myself.  Mail order has traditionally not had that easy connection with its customers.  I will pick up my phone when someone calls and asks for a pharmacist, usually within a minute.  It's like buying produce at one grocery store and complaining to the other grocery store about the first's selection.  Even better, it's like ordering books from Amazon.com, then walking into Barnes and Noble without the book and asking why the cover is different, it has fewer pages, and it costs more here.  If they're where you do business, call them.
I realize pharmacy options have grown, but if I don't have your information on file, I can't give you the best, correct answer.  I am sorry you chose them over me for whatever reason is personal to you.  I don't really care what the reasons are.  It's akin to transferring your prescriptions to an independent that delivers, but is closed after 5 pm and on weekends and you expect me to bail you out.  You decided to use their services, now you have to learn to operate within them.  I am tired of being your bitch just because you like some of their services better than what I have to offer.