In Compounding, Independent Pharmacy

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Retail chain pharmacists are typically overworked and understaffed, and I am speaking from experience. During my time at a certain retail drug store, I would often work 12-14 hour shifts and would be the only pharmacist in the pharmacy that day. I was the only person in the store allowed access to the C-II medications (which were locked in a safe) as well as give any type of vaccine and answer any type of clinical question, all while also trying to manage the pharmacy, verify prescriptions for accuracy, check-in and restock drugs, fill prescriptions, input prescriptions, answer phones, deal with irate customers and employees, and every other relevant task that I did not have room mention. Needless to say, I was not able to devote equal attention to every task. I suffered, my employees suffered, and, unfortunately, so did my patients. People needed my help and I just did not have time for them.

It wasn’t until I left the chain pharmacy world, that I realized that being a pharmacist could actually be enjoyable and rewarding. I was happier and so were my patients.

Here are 6 reasons why you should switch to an independent pharmacy.

  1. Shorter wait times. According to a 2014 Consumer Report, “[o]nly 7 percent of customers at independents reported that a prescription wasn’t ready when promised during the previous 12 months; just 4 percent complained of long waits. By contrast, 19 percent of shoppers at pharmacy chains found that a prescription wasn’t ready, and 21 percent experienced long waits at the service counter.” Tired of waiting hours or days for your prescription? Try your local independent pharmacy. Chances are they can have yours ready in just a matter of minutes.
  2. More services offered. In my experience, independent pharmacies offer a wider array of services when compared to their corporate counterparts. The services include, but are not limited to: delivery, patient charge accounts, compounding, durable medical goods, and immunizations. Retail chain pharmacies make money by filling as many prescriptions as possible, and while that is an important part of independent pharmacy, because they cannot compete with the script count of the chains, they tend to offer more services to gain and keep your business. You will rarely see compounding or delivery in the chain pharmacy world and I would be willing to bet that you will NOT find patient charge accounts there either.
  3. Individualized care and attention. According to NCPA (National Community Pharmacists Association), independent pharmacies employ an average of 2.8 full-time employed pharmacists (including the owner) and 3.3 full-time employed technicians (not to mention cashiers and other miscellaneous employees) to fill an average of 201 prescriptions per day. As a former chain pharmacist, I worked a 14 hour shift with no other pharmacist or overlap, filled 300+ prescriptions and only had 3-4 technicians on a regular, if not daily, basis. How could any patient form a relationship with a pharmacist under those kinds of conditions? The kind of service I am now able to offer as an independent is vastly improved.
  4. Better customer service. Independent pharmacy patients often have an established relationship with the owner. It is not uncommon for the owner to be one of the pharmacists on staff. When is the last time you met the CEO, President, VP, or even district manager of a chain pharmacy? My guess is that has never happened. My employer is in the pharmacy just as much, if not more than I am. He has a wonderful relationship with our patients. Often times our patients specifically ask for him. If they have a problem, they know he will fix it. They skip all of the middle men and go right to the boss. That’s customer service that the chains cannot compete with.
  5. Not inhibited by corporate oversight. The best way I know to illustrate this is with an example. Guaifenesin (brand name Mucinex) is an OTC expectorant. Codeine is a C-II narcotic pain reliever and cough suppressant. This combination (brand name Robitussin A-C)is classified as a C-V controlled substance. In the state of Florida (and many others as well), Robitussin A-C can be dispensed by a registered pharmacist without a prescription (no more than 120 mg of codeine in 48 hours). There are definitely times when the regular OTC Robitussin just won’t cut it and something stronger is necessary. However, you will rarely, if ever, find this service being offered to patients by chain pharmacies because those corporations either do not allow it or make it so inconvenient that pharmacists are strongly discouraged to do so. This is just one of many examples of how chain pharmacies discourage, and even prohibit, pharmacists from providing to their patients the best care permitted to them by their respective board of pharmacy and federal regulations.
  6. Accurate and knowledgeable. Independent pharmacies consistently rank at the top of the charts of customer satisfaction in every category. But perhaps the most important category of all is accuracy. One Consumer Report shows independent pharmacies were ranked #1 overall and were given the highest rating in regards to speed and accuracy (see image below). This data translates into patient safety. As a patient, you have the right to receive the correct medication, dose, and directions as prescribe by your doctor and independents are voted the best at ensuring that happens. How does your pharmacy compare to the independent pharmacies on the chart below?
    Many people expect long wait times, poor customer service, and even an overall unpleasant pharmacy experience when dealing with chain pharmacies, but it doesn’t have to be. Independent pharmacies are consistently at the top of the charts of customer satisfaction. If you want a better pharmacy experience, begin your search for an independent pharmacy here.Click here for some additional tips on choosing a pharmacist.

    Click HERE for some additional reasons to switch to an independent pharmacy!

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Showing 13 comments
  • Lauren Woodley

    I didn’t know that independent pharmacies offer more services. You talk about how since they don’t have to compete with the script count of chains, they can offer more extensive services. This is very good to know so that I can find the right pharmacy and get all of the services I need to stay supported and healthy. Thanks for the insight!

    • The Independent Pharmacist

      You’re welcome and thanks for the comment!

  • Roland Thomas

    I stress this over and over again in my book “Independent Pharmacy Steps for Greater Success” published about two years ago. Unfortunately, many independents do not take advantage of their many opportunities, which may be justifiable in their view. They work long hours and it is difficult to transition to the new trends such as MTM, Patient Services, utilizing new marketing tools, making their pharmacies more convenient and visible. I was in a pharmacy last week where 6-7 patients were waiting and the pharmacy was so crowded, two people could not comfortably pass each other in either aisle. The pharmacist’s role in our health care system is expanding and I believe, over time, most will adapt but a slow process.

    • The Independent Pharmacist

      You are exactly right. I am going to check out your book because it sounds like you and I are on the same page.

      One of my goals (upcoming) for this site, is to provide independent pharmacies with the tools to grow in this tough climate – those tools being the many opportunities you are referring to. Thanks for the comment. I would love to hear more from you.

  • Keith Hartman

    They also support their local communities and sponsor little league teams, boy and Girl Scout events, etc… You won’t get that from Express Scripts mail order pharmacy.

    • The Independent Pharmacist

      Absolutely! Thanks for the comment.

  • Abigail Atwood

    I am a pharmacy student. I currently work for a national pharmacy chain, and I have had experience in an independent pharmacy while on rotation. Before the experience, I was excited about independent pharmacy. I was looking forward to opportunities to provide higher levels of service to patients, but I left the experience with concerns about this type of practice setting. At this site, there was a general unawareness of pharmacy law and frequent use of inappropriate billing practices. Basic things like a thermometer in the freezer were neglected. I had to purchase a thermometer for my site out of my own pocket to correct this issue. I also witnessed my preceptors commit insurance fraud by billing for different NDCs than those filled. Additionally, the independent pharmacy was unable to bill Medicare part B. Because of this fact, I was strongly discouraged from sharing information about test strip coverage with patients. Due to the cost of test strips and the pharmacy staff’s silence on Medicare part B benefits, I met several diabetic patients who stated that they had not test blood glucose for months. After this experience, I began to feel that it is healthy to have some amount of separation between money paid by patients/insurance and a pharmacist’s paycheck. I also started to feel that corporate guidance and policies can help keep a pharmacy on track. I’m hoping someone here can give me a more global view of these types of issues in independent pharmacy practice.

    • The Independent Pharmacist

      Thanks for your comment. While these are some serious concerns, I hope that it does not tarnish your view of independent pharmacy as a whole since there are many very professional, upstanding, and caring independent pharmacies across the country.

      It is true that a major concern for independent pharmacies is competition with big pharmacy chains and survival in this world of ever decreasing insurance reimbursements. It is definitely cheaper to take shortcuts like some of the ones you have mentioned but, again, is not representative of all independents. One of the goals of this website is to provide independent pharmacists with creative and legal ways to thrive despite some of the issues we face.

      Corporate guidance and policy can be a great thing when they are designed and implemented with patient safety and satisfaction as the primary concern. The problem is that in many of these big chains, the driving force behind these rules is often money – preventing law suits (usually the primary concern), sacrificing convenience for customers to save a few dollars, cutting staff hours, etc. These rules are often blanketed across all of the pharmacies in the chain and may have negative impact at the patient level.

      There is absolutely no reason why some of the same kinds of patient-centered policies and rules that exist within big chains cannot be implemented at the independent pharmacy level as well. I would even submit that pharmacies that have these kinds of guidelines in place, and assuming there aren’t other problems (unpleasant staff, poor customer service, issues with insurance contracts, bad reputation, etc.), are better off in the eyes of the community and their patients and, as a result, are most likely more successful than pharmacies that do not. Sure there are exceptions. But, believe it or not, many of your customers know when you are breaking the rules and when you do, it leaves them with a bad taste in their mouth. I’ve seen this take place in my own community.

      I hope that this at least helps a little with your concerns. I would like to invite you to email me if you would like to talk about more specific concerns and suggestions:

      Please do not be discouraged by your experience. There are so many good independent pharmacies out there. If your community is lacking in one, I encourage you to start your own. It takes dedication and lots of hard work but I believe it is all worth it in the end. Email me if you would like to chat more. I would appreciate more of your input on issues like this.

      The Independent Pharmacist

  • Marc (Space Mastiff SEO)

    Another great article! All of your points are thought-provoking to consumers that might not know any better. I worked at several big-box stores as a pharmacy student and knew I could never work in one as a pharmacist. I now help promote a lot of independent and specialty pharmacies with SEO/internet marketing. It’s great to see the smaller pharmacies thrive. Thanks again and I’m glad I found your site.

  • Harper Campbell

    It’s interesting to learn that when it comes to going to a pharmacist that one we might want to consider using is an independent one. I like how you mentioned that going this route will mean that we might be getting better customer service, that way we will have an established relationship with them. My mother is getting older in her years, and we are wanting to make sure that we find the right place to get her medications.

  • Jaque Christo

    Thank you for the information on why I should choose an independent pharmacy. I definitely like the idea of shorter waiting times. I don’t like having to go to a pharmacy for my prescription only to end up spending half my day in line or waiting for the order to be filled. I’ll remember this when I move and have to look for a new pharmacy to go to.

  • Scott Adams

    You made a great point about how pharmacies can also offer immunization services. I have been looking for a pharmacy to fill my new prescriptions. It would be smart to choose one that can also give me a flu shot because I don’t want to get sick this year.

  • Moira Blythe

    My husband and I just moved to a new town. We don’t have a new pharmacy picked out yet, but I appreciate your advice that by choosing an independent one, we will have a wider array of services when compared to the corporate option. Plus, we love supporting local businesses!

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