The Pharmacy Chick

Flying the coup in retail

Courtesy that extends to the other side of the counter too.

Filed under: Uncategorized — pharmacychick at 4:36 pm on Sunday, May 4, 2014

As you might figure, being courteous is required in any job that deals with the public, as it should be.  we should be courteous people in every aspect of our lives but sadly we aren’t.  I am amazed at things I see while perusing the internet. Surreptitious videos that people have taken of other’s bad bad behavior go viral after only a few days on the net.  Insults are hurled in comments on blogs and news articles…fights break out on facebook and message boards.  I am not totally immune, as I have been known to snap back a bit at people who have made rude comments on my own blog…but then again, its MY blog. I own it.

That being said, in the pharmacy world, we need and should expect some courtesy from people who choose to do business with us.  I recently came to work one day to see a script in the auto fill queue for a lady’s birth control pill.  Last month she had called and complained that she didn’t like the new manufacturer we had given her.  Fair enough. We purchase on contract and that is our contracted item.  I told her I ‘d be happy to return it, and transfer it to a store of her choosing, as my options are few when it comes to contracted purchasing. We dont get to pick and choose our generics.  So, when I saw this rx in the queue, I did a history check and I noticed she never returned it.  I filled the script, and called her home to ask if she was happy with the rx…does she want this one..yada yada.  I got her husband on the phone.  “Yup, thats a question for her, she is at work, her number is 544-555-1212. “.  I called her cell, and got her message machine so I left as detailed of message I could do under HIPAA.  I asked her to call me back.  tick tick tick…After about 5 pm, I called her home again, and got another message machine.  This time I just reiterated what I had said earlier and said ” your script is ready as is, if you dont want it, please let me know”.

Never heard back from her. I just had to assume the answer was yes.

Is it too much to ask for a simple call?   We get rejections every day for insurance issues, and each of them is handled with a courtesy call to the patient requesting either more information ( new card perhaps), or suggestions to call the doc for substitution ( non covered items).  Most of the time I feel as if I have spoken into a black hole. Sometimes I will even ask ” did you get my call?” and often I hear ” yea, i saw you left a message, but I didn’t listen to my script ready?”  AARGH! if you listened to the message you would know its not ready..and why!

Last week, after sending 4 faxes to a doctors office with no answer and getting ripped a new one by the patient ( because obviously its MY fault even tho I left him a message telling him he may want to call the office). I called and left a message. ” PLEASE, we need this refill, either ok or denied.  The patient is being a bit of a jerk about it and blaming us and we both know we cant fill it without some kind of response from your office.  ”  About a half out later she finally called back and was snippy and rude to me telling me I shouldn’t call my patients “jerks”.  I told her I didn’t call HIM a jerk…he was BEING  a jerk in his behavior towards our staff.. and frankly it shouldn’t take 7 days to do a simple refill.. so is it approved?

We have our own guidelines of courtesy that we follow each day.  We make courtesy calls when we are out of stock on merchandise..we call when we need addtional information prior to filling a script.  We call when its not covered or needs a prior auth.  Any opportunity that makes it less likely to have somebody pissed at us is one I am willing to take!  But more often than not, I leave messages that are never returned.

I need customers to understand that we are not a fast food restaurant.  We dont waste your time because we dont have time to waste ourselves. If we call YOU to ask a question, we need an answer…and that answer will often decide when and if your prescription is ready.  Same goes for the dr’s offices…if we ask for some information, its not because we hate you…its because we NEED it…to take care of YOUR patients.. For instance, a patient with a mouth full of cotton brought me a script written for Norco.  No strength…Just Norco.  I called the office and hoped I’d get an answer immediately for this patient whose mouth was getting bloodier by the minute.  What did I get?  ” He is with a patient, we will call you later…”  LATER??

With the electronic age firmly ensconced in the pharmacy now, it sets us up for an entire new set of needs: E script clarification.  Ive had e scripts sent for massages, IUD’s , “Unknown drug” ( yea, go figure how THAT got sent), duplicate rx’s with differing directions… Multiple rx’s with different strengths of same meds.  Missing sigs, vague sigs, nonsensical sigs…etc.  Makes you wonder if anybody ever reads them before they hit “send”.  Each one has to be printed and sent back for clarification which sadly can take up to a day…when it really shouldnt.

health care isn’t going to get any fact its going to be more and more complicated as we move further and further into the future.  We have so many i’s to dot and t’s to cross that I have to make sure I’ve documented everything before I sign it off. And if that requires a phone call or a need for more information, the very least..entend that courtesy to us.  It will make for a better experience for everyone!


Comment by CPhT

May 14, 2014 @ 3:50 am

One of my big problems these days is that I work in a well-off neighborhood and the chains have taught people that everything is *our* responsibility, so when something is not up to these snooty people’s standards, they call and bitch me out. The big problem? They will sit there and give you both barrels and never tell you their name and then they get angry when you ask for it to try to look into the issue! I just want to hang up on them any more. I had a customer call a few weeks ago and ask why we hadn’t gotten in touch with her doctor, because it’s the pharmacy’s job to talk to them, not hers.

Comment by WarmSocks

May 29, 2014 @ 7:06 am

Doctors can send all the e-scripts they want. I still ask for a paper version “in case it gets lost in cyberspace.” Not only is that helpful when the e-script doesn’t get to the pharmacy, but also in case what the computer spits out doesn’t match what the doctor said.

As for courtesy calls, my pharmacy never calls when they’re out of stock on pills. I don’t find out until I show up. Since I order refills one day and wait until the next to pick them up, this makes no sense to me because they should have figured out the stock issue the previous day and placed their order then. However, they always phone to let me know that they don’t have my biologic in stock and it won’t be ready until the next day — seems a waste of time on the phone since I already know that they never keep it in stock but will order it as soon as I ask for a refill.

Now my pharmacy’s computer is leaving messages on my answering machine telling me to pick up my prescriptions even though I’ve already done so. They’ve hired another new tech who doesn’t push the right buttons when she rings up a sale so the computer thinks the stuff is still sitting on their shelf.

Comment by Steph

May 30, 2014 @ 7:54 pm

I always enjoy reading your blogs because I am an intern and I have to admit that I got into pharmacy school without knowing much about what retail pharmacy means. I started work recently and I feel like everyone just expects me to know it all. Although in these few months, I’ve learned how to fill scripts and get it to the pharmacist, there seems to be thousands of other things a pharmacist does that I have no idea about. I am wondering if you’ll do a informational post where you could explain some basic pharmacist duties that pharmacist in most states do. It would really help me feel better to know at least something about stuff like inventory, controlled substances, mylar and such. I work in 24 hr store where people barely have time to look at me, let alone teach me.

Comment by The Ole' Apothecary

June 27, 2014 @ 9:34 am

PC, Hi, long time no speak. I enjoyed your post, and I realize I suffered in retail because of a matter of acceptance. I could not accept certain attitudes among the general public and other healthcare professionals. Now, I look at your statement, “I need customers to understand that we are not a fast food restaurant,” and reply, no. Not gonna happen. Customers DO think of their community pharmacy as a fast food restaurant, as do many of our fellow healthcare providers. They cannot see “the pharmacy of it.” All they see is the product. Despite the loftiest textbook writings and lectures about the clinical pharmacy movement, something I have been listening to since the 1970s, not a jot or tittle of that picture has changed in the working world. Despite the mountains of acronyms and paradigms, or pretenses at paradigm shifts, I still hear the groaning of the oars in the slave galley and the treatment of pharmacists as clerks. If I had accepted these facts in my gut 15 or 20 years ago, I could have saved myself the bloody anguish of my expectations. Maybe the galley oars have changed from pine to mahogany, and the captain of the ship uses a cell phone instead of a megaphone to shout out his commands, but the working conditions and attitudes aboard ship are what they were when I left port.Its good to hear from you again! This is very well written, and perhaps I write only for what I hope to happen, but never believe it actually happen. You are right of course, the customer will never believe us to be anything but pill counters…and a clerk to ring them up. I still have 13 hour shifts with a corporate policy that never supports a real lunch or break, and a labor model that in my opinion puts patients at risk.

Comment by SciFi Pharmacist Guy

October 9, 2014 @ 2:58 pm

Enjoyed your article and couldn’t agree more. When I worked for an independent retail pharmacy we had a customer who had a script for a cream that we didn’t stock. The pharmacist told the customer that we had to order it and would have in the pharmacy by tomorrow afternoon. For some reason the customer took that to mean something completely different and went on a fit, filled with expletives, about how we’re trying to “screw her” by not giving her what she wants. Now I work for a hospital and deal with nurses in place of customers. Just like customers, some nurses are great and others are completely rude and aggressive. I would love to see some changes made in regards to how pharmacists are treated, because I didn’t plan on going to school for six years to become a punching bag for others.

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