Pharmacy Phail


As consumers, we’ve all visited businesses that we feel we could improve upon, if only we were in charge. Service, merchandise, store layout, parking…there’s always something to complain about, and no business does everything perfectly. And I really hate to complain about a local business, but I feel I’ve given it long enough to see if the problems are just isolated, unrelated incidents, or if it’s a business standard.

I live in a small town, and I have the good fortune to be within walking distance of just about any business in town. Now don’t be misled…this doesn’t mean I actually WALK everywhere I need to go…oh, no, I can be quite lazy. BUT…a stop at any business should be a fairly quick trip, no matter the mode of transportation. Small towns also don’t provide huge numbers of customers, so lines and wait times are usually manageable, wherever you go.

Now, most businesses have certain procedures related to the type of business, and I’m sure time is spent to figure out the flow of the business, to best determine these procedures. A restaurant manager works out how many wait staff are needed at what times of day, how guests will be greeted, seated, and waited upon, and how the mess gets cleaned up for the next group. The grocer makes sure the shelves are stocked with what the customers want, the employees are helpful, and the cashiers can get you through the line with accuracy, efficiency, and a smile. And the baggers aren’t supposed to put your eggs or bread in the bottom of the bag. Some businesses have many tasks and services that they provide, and the larger they are, or the more services provided, the more management needs to figure out in order to make things flow smoothly.

Our local pharmacy is pretty small. They have two jobs…filling prescriptions, and selling over the counter goods at the one register. They usually have no less than four employees on duty, not counting the pharmacist. You would imagine that they have things covered, right? Not so much. Whether you call in a refill, bring in a paper prescription, or have your doctor fax or email your prescription in seems to make no difference. 9.5 times out of 10 you will arrive to pick up your prescription hours later, and it will not be ready. There just doesn’t seem to be a GO button.

This morning, I called in a refill at 9:00, when the store opened. I went in at 1:00, and the gal I spoke with looked for the prescription, which wasn’t in the bin. Then she said, “I know I talked to you Barb, but I just don’t know where we’re at with it. But I see that the label was processed, but that doesn’t mean anything.” She then meandered over to the pharmacist’s area, came back and said, “No, we don’t have it ready yet.” I asked when it might be ready, and she said, “Well, it’s hard to say, but at least a half an hour.” I came back at 3:00, and after 2 different employees tried to ask who was next, and check up on whether the other worker took care of so and so, I finally got my prescription. Not too bad…only 6 hours from calling it in to picking it up, with a little nudge 4 hours into the process. After all, they did have to verify my prescription and insurance, locate the proper drug, count out 30 pills, print a label, and put them in the bottle, and then a bag, and print the receipt. And I do realize I’m not the only customer.

When you visit your doctor, and modern technology allows him to email your prescription in instantaneously, you think, “Wow! This is slick! I’ll be able to pick up my pills on the way home!” Well, not exactly. I’ll get to the pharmacy, and ask for my prescription, and they won’t be able to find it in the bin. Then I’ll tell them my doctor emailed it in that morning. They’ll look at the computer, and say, “Oh, I see the email here. It will take us a while to get it ready.” This was the shocking discovery for me…they don’t DO anything when these emails from doctors are arriving all day. They apparently don’t check their email until you call or stop in, and ask for your prescription. They have one main task at hand…to fill prescriptions, and yet, they don’t get too aggressive about actually filling them. You have to be the catalyst in the process. And sometimes, it takes more than one nudge to get them rolling.

So, in their business process, the GO step is missing. The customer must push that button, and sometimes it’s out of order. It would be like going into that restaurant and ordering your meal, and the waitress hanging the ticket on that little merry go round thingy for the cooks to see, and the cooks just not looking at the merry go round thingy, unless you went back to the kitchen and started nagging them to please cook your food. Or at that grocery store, the truckloads of foodstuffs would be unloaded at the back of the store, but no one would put them out into the coolers and onto the shelves. If you wanted to buy groceries, you’d have to track down the stock person and nag at them to please get some for you from the crates and boxes. And maybe they would go on break instead of getting your stuff.

I still hold out hope that the manager of our pharmacy will rally the troops and come up with a process for those many employees to follow that will get my prescriptions filled in less than 6 hours, and without me bugging them to get it filled. But I’m not going to hold my breath.



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