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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!