Inside This Issue - News
Patients give high marks to pharmacy staff
February 18th, 2013
NEW YORK – In recent years the role of the pharmacist has evolved and assumed greater importance in the country’s health care system.
In community pharmacy increasing emphasis has been placed on the expertise of the pharmacist in guiding patients in their use of prescription medications. As the American Pharmacists Association points out, their extensive training makes pharmacists the most knowledgeable health care professionals when it comes to medicines and their use.
They are, in addition, the health care professionals to whom people can generally have the most direct, easy access. Consequently, the pharmacist can play a unique and key role in helping people achieve the best outcomes from their medication use and, in countless instances, help patients avoid serious health repercussions from possible side effects or harmful interactions with other prescription or over-the-counter medicines.
Customer Satisfaction with Pharmacist
and Pharmacy Staff
CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE
The results from Boehringer Ingelheim’s Pharmacy Satisfaction Pulse survey suggest that the profession is performing this role very well. The fall 2011 survey of 34,424 adult pharmacy customers reveals that 88% of those polled were somewhat (23%) or very (65%) satisfied with their pharmacists and pharmacy staff, and consider them a very important part of their overall pharmacy experience.
The reasons for these impressive scores are varied, ranging from innovative and effectively implemented programs to extraordinary dedication on the part of individuals.
For example, CVS Caremark Corp.’s Pharmacy Advisor program alerts pharmacists when a patient becomes nonadherent or has a gap in care and enables them to intervene and communicate with the patient’s physician in real time. However, the company also has a brown bag program through which its pharmacists visit senior centers, check residents’ medications for possible negative interactions and offer advice.
For its part, Kerr Drug has implemented a program called “Just Ask” to encourage patients to interact with their pharmacists. With diabetes cases on the increase, the chain has initiated a program to encourage its pharmacists to talk with diabetes patients about their disease and check that they are adequately trained on using blood glucose meters and giving themselves insulin injections.
The Raleigh, N.C.-based chain also recognizes the important role of pharmacy technicians in delivering a superior pharmacy experience. Extensive training is emphasized and eligible technicians are encouraged to obtain national certification.
Walgreen Co., of course, has been a forceful leader in redefining the role of pharmacists within a relational care model that enables them to make the most of their clinical skills. It has also argued strongly for the value of that role in the U.S. health care system.
“Pharmacists are trusted health care professionals,” said president and chief executive officer Greg Wasson at the recent NACDS Regional Chain Conference. “And the value of the pharmacist-patient relationship is leading to a higher quality of life for the patient.”
As it has in so many other areas of life, mobile communications technology is making it easier for pharmacy patients to manage their medications. Shopko Stores, a Midwestern discount chain that operates pharmacies and optical centers, offers its Rx customers a free mobile app that enables them to refill prescriptions, receive pickup and dosage reminders and gain a complete view of their individual health information. According to the chain, more than 1,000 refills are being made daily using the mobile app.
While anecdotal accounts confirm that pharmacy customers are increasingly seeing their pharmacists as important sources of medication expertise and general health care information, the Pharmacy Satisfaction Pulse survey found that pharmacy customers find printed health information less useful.
Among chain drug customers, for instance, 74% said they were somewhat (22%) or very (52%) satisfied with printed information available. The results also suggest, though, that chains are doing a better job, since the number of those very satisfied had jumped by more than five percentage points in a year.
Independent Pharmacies Excel When It Comes to Service
In many of the measures tracked by the Pharmacy Satisfaction Pulse survey, independent drug stores garnered the highest scores. That held true when it came to satisfaction with pharmacists and pharmacy staff.
No fewer than 94% of independent drug store customers polled were somewhat (13%)or very (81%) satisfied and considered their pharmacists and staff to be a very important part of the overall pharmacy experience. By comparison, 87% of chain drug customers expressed satisfaction, still high, but a lower percentage than the customers of all types of pharmacy except mail order/online. Within that figure, 61% were very satisfied, a total 20 percentage points lower than independents.
In a recent interview, John Fiacco, vice president of the Medicine Shoppe and Medicap Pharmacy division of Cardinal Health Inc., offered an explanation of why independent pharmacies consistently rate highly on studies of customer service. Most independent pharmacists, he believes, chose their professional path because of a genuine desire to interact with patients and improve their health.
One advantage that independent pharmacists possess is the freedom to try innovative approaches or act on an entrepreneurial hunch that can satisfy unmet needs and give the pharmacy a unique role and value that chain rivals cannot duplicate.
For example, one Medicine Shoppe owner invested in specialty packaging that enables elderly or infirm patients who have difficulty taking their medication to do so safely and effectively. The technology and processes involved are complex, and the fact that the pharmacy had particularly capable technicians was critical to its success. But the result was an increase in business of nearly 20% in one year.
In addition, independents have the freedom to develop and offer additional services, such as compounding. An independent pharmacist-owner who operates under McKesson Corp.’s Health Mart banner offers extended consultations on a fee basis.
The consultations are provided behind closed doors in a private office within the pharmacy and cover a variety of topics ranging from hormone replacement therapy to medications for depression or pain to methods for combatting aging.
According to the pharmacist-owner, the private setting facilitates more open communication, which in turn increases her ability to help the patient. Communication is also aided by online forms that allow the patient to provide medical information prior to the consultation. The fee is $150 for an hour consultation, and the pharmacist currently sees six to seven patients per day.
That kind of entrepreneurial inspiration not only allows the independent pharmacist to offset reimbursement pressures, but to provide a unique value to patients.