The Pharmacy Chick

Flying the coup in retail

Where should we be?

Filed under: Uncategorized — pharmacychick at 9:18 am on Monday, January 25, 2010

Some time back (and in some pharmacy magazine) I read an article (or editorial, I can’t remember which) where the writer stated an opinion that retail pharmacists and retail pharmacies need to move out of the spotlight and view of customers and MORE into a more private and secure environment.  As I read this I found myself nodding my head in agreement.  We are America’s most “accessible” health care professional not because the world values us, but because most of us work in a fishbowl.  Walk into most pharmacies and you will see exactly what I mean.   Recently I went into one retail outlet that had been remodeled a few years ago and was surprised to see that on 3 of the 4 sides the  pharmacy was able to be viewed by the general public.  I was shocked and dismayed at the lack of privacy and security this pharmacy offered its employees.  There was no place that I could see, that the pharmacist could stand and not be in view of onlookers.  SAD.

My pharmacy is bad enough.  With the exception of one small cubby in the back, I can be  viewed from anyplace on the outside of the dept.  AND, had I not covered the counseling window glass with opaque contact paper, THAT area would be in view also. 

Aside from the obvious,  there are some real sound reasons that this author feels that pharmacy needs to be out of the public eye.

1. Simple Security.  DRUGS.  We have a lot of them.  My store alone has over a quarter million dollars in drugs alone.  I have more narcotics now than I have ever carried thanks to the prolific writings of so called “pain” clinics.  For too many its a thinly veiled narcotic addiction management program.   The cabinet looks like a narcotic salad bar!…shelves and shelves of nearly identical products but ones I have to stock because they are ever so slightly different than their competitor.  One tote and a long sweep of the hand and you will have a lot of money in street value.  ADA eliminated our 1-2 step up entrance to the pharmacy so one hop and a thief is over the counter and into the pharmacy.

2.  Concentration.   We have a drop off window on one side, a long work counter, and a pick up window on the other end.  We can be prodded at any place in this line.  “ahem”  “cough cough” “knock knock”….interruptions to a counting procedure, a final check, etc.  I am most weary of people asking me “Can I ask you a quick question?”  usually its an oxymoron.  The only think quick about most peoples questions is how QUICKly I can get out of it and back to the task at hand.

3.  Time management.  we spend a lot of time fielding questions that simply do not belong to the pharmacist.  “Can you tell me where such and such is?”  The pharmacy is not an information booth.  If you want to know where the canned corn is, where the bakery is (under the GIANT BAKERY sign) or where the bathroom is, ask the customer service counter.  THAT is their job.  People come to us for such questions because we are slaves the the dept. 

4. Patient safety.  A distracted pharmacist is a bad thing.  I dont need to even discuss that fact. 

How would I design a modern pharmacy? 

For starters, I would take some of the design ideas of most hospital pharmacies (aside from the fact that many are unmarked anyway…you’d have to identify it as a pharmacy!).  In my pharmacy 99% of the pharmacy would be out of view.  100% of the drugs and the dispensing counter would be out of view.  I may even compartmentalize the pharmacy where the work would be done behind a second wall.  Clerks would man the front portion of the pharmacy where the customer would be picking up prescriptions.  Techs and pharmacists would be in the back where the filling and prep work would be done.    The customer would not be viewing the pharmacist filling prescriptions.  Its not his/her business to be watching the pharmacist at work.  Nobody should be watching us count medications. This isn’t a pizza parlor where you sit and watch the chef throw a pizza crust.

The drop off window would be a rather small unobtrusive window with just one terminal for inputting patient bio data.   The pick up window would be similar and after payment the customer would be guided to areas for counseling (if needed) and then the pharmacist would come out and provide the necessary information for the patient. 

If some patient had a question for a pharmacist, then the pharmacist would be able to come out at his/her discretion and not be glowered at by said customer waiting while the pharmacist finished the task. No longer would we be in the fish bowl we are working in now.

In high risk areas, even the windows could be protected like a bank with glass to prevent unauthorized entry.    Every pharmacy would be given an office….a place where vaccinations could be given (instead of the middle of the aisle?!?), and some privacy to where if a sensitive issue needs to be aired, it can be.

Security, Safety, and Privacy.  Why are these things so obsessed about  by the government when it comes to the patient (i.e. HIPAA) and so blatantly ignored when it comes to the people entrusted to assure these things?

Tell me what you think readers?


Comment by Katrina

January 25, 2010 @ 10:33 am

I totally agree…

Comment by Heather H.

January 25, 2010 @ 11:12 am

makes total sense to me… and I would feel more comfortable going to a pharmacy like that than one where everyone can see me getting my perscription and there is no privacy for consultation if I need it.

You should open your own pharmacy!hehe

Comment by Mom

January 25, 2010 @ 11:24 am

Sounds great to me. While it may be interesting for my seven year old to watch you work I would prefer my scripts to be filled accurately, confidentialy and safely. I think consumers and employers often forget the level of education required to obtain a RPh license. (I am not a pharmacist)

Comment by Deb

January 26, 2010 @ 5:27 am

Sounds great!
I worked in a pharmacy that was very closed off to public eyes. It was wonderful to work there and know I wouldn’t be interrupted mid-count. It was a very busy pharmacy and I really enjoyed working there.

The pharmacy I work in now is one long counter, like yours, drop off at one end, pick up and cash at the other. The only ‘barrier’ to customers is glass (regular glass). People ask questions from every direction at any time, regardless if you are on the phone, counting, even assisting another patient with their drop off/pick up! I think, like you said, the openess really encourages customers to interrupt us whenever they feel like it.

Granted, this is nice for security reasons. When we do have a slow time, its nice to hop up on a stool, read a pharmacy magazine/catch up on government websites, etc and be able to ‘survey the kingdom’, so to speak.

But I would much rather prefer to work where there is less likely a chance of being interrupted, where I can really focus on the prescription at hand and give it my undivided attention.

Comment by chris

January 26, 2010 @ 6:34 am

we DEFINATELY need some sort of privacy, along with all of your other reasons, there is professional image. We already lose a lot of our professional image when being asked mundane, where is the bleach? questions. But most pharmcies I have been to/worked in have been differing levels of organised chaos. phones ringing, faxes printing, people labelling, people picking and people checking. then there is all the paperwork involved in everything from controlled drug registers to drug information books. It doesnt look very professional when someone comes in and sees this as most people dont understand just how much we have to do.

Comment by The Ole' Apothecary

January 26, 2010 @ 10:17 am

PC, I think the article you read was in Drug Topics, by pharmacist Michael Shuh.

Comment by Steph

January 30, 2010 @ 1:26 am

I was just having this discussion with my pharmacy manager less than a week ago. Our pharmacy is an L shape with a drive thru and pickup/dropoff windows in the smaller part of the L. In the larger part there’s another window that isn’t open. We had a computer and a phone there that was really convenient and next to where we fill. They moved that computer and phone and attached it to a cash register. There is now no phone and no computer that isn’t within sight/hearing distance of patients. I don’t think this is conducive to good patient privacy at all. Everyone at the counter can hear us now that we have to take phone calls directly in front of them.

Comment by Georgia RPh

February 10, 2010 @ 12:25 pm

I completely agree. We have a walk-up window (don’t ask) next to the soda machines – guess how many times a day I get interrupted only to be asked for change? This same walk up window in many stores is right behind the verification site. So customers get mad and ring the bell over and over again b/c the RPh appears to be ignoring them when in reality they are just trying to check an Rx. In my store we have two counters and I always verify on the back counter b/c the front counter verification station is right next to the registers! I could go on and on,but you obviously get the point. We are getting a remodel but I’m sure it will only make the situation worse.

Comment by Megan

June 11, 2010 @ 10:00 pm

I agree 100% I have worked for two different chains, three years for CVS and have currently been with Walgreens for five years. The CVS where I worked was a brand new store, different layout where everything could be viewed and the only thing stopping a customer from coming back was a push-door that was only waist high. That store was robbed twice all the strengths of Hydrocodone were on the “fast rack” and displayed for everyone to see. The robbers had been in the store many times before to scope out where everything was. We had plenty of pissed off customers the next day who couldn’t get their pain medicine since we were wiped out.

The area I currently work in has been shook up due to a chain of robberies- six armed robberies in one month. They finally caugh the guy after his last robbery when he stuck a loaded gun in a technicians face. Turns out, he’s the son of a cop and his punishment is house-arrest.

Comment by Versicherung

November 5, 2010 @ 4:24 am

Have you thought of adding some videos to your posts to keep the visitors more entertained? I just read through the entire article and it was quite good…thanks for the sharenah, I am not so much into the videos. If you want some videos related to pharmacy to give you a good belly laugh click on my blog roller guzzo extempore..he will keep you entertained for hours!!

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