By: Amanda Winslow, PharmD, BCPS
Picture this: You are in a pharmacy around 5pm on a Monday after a holiday. The drive-through is backed up, there’s a line at the cash register and a technician called out sick today. I think we’ve all been in some sort of situation similar to this. But I think we can all agree that no matter what the circumstances may be, our patients still expect the same service – a quickly and accurately filled prescription ready when they are. Today’s age of technology and speed has created many unrealistic expectations in the healthcare industry, and pharmacy has not escaped from these expectancies. Below, some of the patients’ most common expectations are discussed.
Expectation #1: Medications ready when they are
It’s fairly commonplace nowadays to hear a pharmacy being compared to a fast-food restaurant. An order is received, the order is filled and the order is sold. Unfortunately, patients also see this similarity and expect to have their prescriptions at the same rate they get food from a drive-through. Whether the patient is a waiter, had an e-scribed medication, or called in their prescription 2 weeks ago, they expect their medication to be ready when they walk up to the counter. Although pharmacy employees know far more is done than to just put a label on the medications, some patients will never understand that. It is important to make sure processes are as efficient as possible to trim down the fill times, while still maintaining safe practices.
Expectation #2: Accurately filled medications
Regardless of how quickly the patients expect you to fill a prescription, they absolutely expect it to be filled accurately. Right patient, right drug, right quantity. This expectation is not outrageous, as it is our most important job to make sure prescriptions are being filled correctly. Our patients want to be able to trust us. This trust develops into rapport, which then allows pharmacists to make further recommendations about the patient’s care. Pharmacists consistently rate in the top 3 trusted professions, so patients expect us to do our jobs well.
Expectation #3: A one-stop shop
Just like everyone else, patients are busy people. They want somewhere they can stop at a time that is convenient to them and be able to complete a simultaneous task. They may hope to buy some groceries, over the counter medications, first aid items, toiletries, or even pick up a birthday card for a friend. Not all front stores are created equally, but as long as you have a couple aisles for patients to peruse through while waiting, they are more content.
Expectation #4: Technology
Healthcare technology has progressed immensely in the last few years. Patients can easily access their medical charts for most physician offices online and expect to do the same with their pharmacy profiles. A simple app with a patient’s current medications available with number of refills would be excellent. Now taking it a step further, an app where you can just click the button to refill that prescription is even better! Now the patients don’t have to wait to talk to someone in the pharmacy or wait at the counter while something is being filled. Another technological advance that is extremely helpful is an automated call or text when a prescription is ready. This saves the patient time by not having to make a second trip if it isn’t ready when they arrive.
Expectation #5: A smile
Although the job is tough, patients expect a smile at the end of the transaction. This customer service practice helps to make the patients feel welcomed and valued. A simple smile reminds the patient that they are cared for by the pharmacy staff, and also helps to build trust and rapport. The patient can get a prescription filled anywhere, but doing so happily makes all the difference in the world.
Regardless of how tough some days can be, it is our duty as pharmacists to give excellent care to all of our patients. Filling a prescription fast is a convenience for our patients, but doing so accurately is a necessity to gaining the patients’ trust. That rapport is what keeps the patients coming back again and again.