As I note in Pharmacy Profits & Part D, current reimbursement models are benefiting higher volume, more efficient pharmacies. This article asks: Will efficiency come at an unacceptable price?
The article links prescription errors at the two largest retail chains -- CVS Caremark (CVS) and Walgreens (WAG) -- to factors such as pharmacist workload, volume incentives for pharmacists, and a corporate emphasis on throughput. As background, you may want to look at my comparison from last July of average Weekly Prescriptions Per Pharmacy.
Why do I think this is a must-read article for all readers of Drug Channels?
- It highlights the real human consequences underlying any breakdowns (preventable or not) in our system of pharmaceutical distribution.
- The article gives time to both critics and defenders of high-volume pharmacy.
- You may be motivated to examine your own prescriptions before swallowing a pill. (Walgreens actually has a very useful online Drug Information tool with pictures of specific pills.)
- There is a very cool interactive graphic of a prescription’s path through the pharmacy.
I also encourage you to browse through the 250+ comments. Yes, an inevitable number of comments are either: (a) personal stories about dispensing errors, or (b) rants against corporations, the US healthcare system, pharmaceutical manufacturers, etc.
However, I also found many thought-provoking and troubling comments from pharmacists, most of whom feel frustrated by the current system. Here are some excerpts:
I worked as a retail pharmacist for a period of time and can tell you that when somebody drops off a prescription they always have two questions: How much is this going to cost and how long is it going to take? Most throw in real relevant questions like "Where is the motor oil and is it the motor oil that was in the sale flyer last week?"
Stories like this are difficult for me to read. I am very proud of my profession, and have been for the over 20 years I have practiced pharmacy. Yes, we do make mistakes. I have made mistakes myself. To those who seem to indicate that pharmacists do not care, you have no idea what you are talking about. Every mistake I have made has caused me anguish. Any mistake I make is one too many, but unfortunately I have not been able to be perfect. If you think a $500 fine would clear my conscience, you could not be further from the truth.
One of my biggest concerns as a pharmacist is trying to properly council a patient on their medication as they talk on their cell phone. I try to wait until they are done talking, but then some of them get upset that I am making them wait. Would you talk on your cell phone in your doctor's office as he or she examined you? I would not. I am not saying that this occurrence absolves the pharmacist from properly counciling a patient, just that the patient also has the responsibility to listen.
I am a pharmacist and I am sick of the public treating their local pharmacy like a fast food chain. They expect a prescription in minutes and expect perfection. People don't understand that these medications are DRUGS, with side effects. I agree that the profession does need a makeover and additional staffing. I have a Doctor of Pharmacy degree but I don't get enough time to actually talk to patients about their medication because I'm busy checking over 500 scripts a day.
I was constantly pressured into filling prescriptions faster. The statements from the drug executives about the pharmacist exercising "professional judgment" are a joke. These companies don't care about anything but the bottom line. I was not treated as a professional; I was treated like a machine that churned out prescriptions. The stress was unbearable. I constantly worried that I was going to kill somebody. The workload was impossible and the help was insufficient.
We expect our prescriptions to be delivered to us like fast food, handed to us in fifteen minutes or less out of a drive through window. I am a pharmacist and routinely face customers who become hostile when told that it may take half an hour or 45 minutes to fill their prescriptions. Everyone thinks that they are the only person when needs medicine and that the pharmacy staff should just work faster to help them out.
You can also read the perspectives of two pharmacist bloggers here and here.