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Your Rx for Success: Make Your Pharmacy Visit More Efficient

Stopping by the pharmacy is usually an inconvenient and time-wasting errand most people don’t look forward to. Long lines and lots of waiting, all surrounded by sick people trying not to get coughed on doesn’t make for a place you want to hang out at for long.

Unfortunately, the pharmacy gets a bad rap. As a pharmacist, I know it’s not just about sick people and picking up your pills. The pharmacy can be a great health resource for you and your family, if you know how to take advantage of it, and how to get in and get out quickly. Here are 10 ways you can make your trip to the pharmacy more efficient.

1. Use the pharmacy services that are available.

If you are sick, the best thing you can do is use the drive-thru or have someone else drop off and pick up your prescription. If you need a refill for a maintenance medication for cholesterol, blood pressure or even birth control, request a fill over the phone or online. Many pharmacies are doing automatic refill by filling prescriptions a few days before you are due for your next refill. This will keep your more compliant and you won’t have to worry about running out of medication. This will save you time and gas as it will hopefully be ready at the time you request.

2. Ask questions!

The law requires a pharmacist to counsel you on any new medications. Most of the time while speaking to their pharmacist, people say they have no questions and then one pops into their head as they walk out the door. When you are heading from the doctor’s office to the pharmacy, think about it. Most doctors do not have the time to give you the full spiel. Ask yourself: What should I know about this medication? What am I taking this for? Could any other medication I’m taking interact with this one? What are the side effects? When is the best time to take it? No question is a stupid one when it comes to your health. Trust me!

3. Bring the essentials.

One of the most common hiccups is people forgetting their driver’s license or their insurance card. I think it’s important to carry those cards everywhere you go anyway. If you are buying Sudafed behind the counter then you will need your license or some other form of identification like a military ID, state ID, driver’s license or passport.

4. Understand the process.

Every pharmacy is different, whether you can to a chain or a mom and pop drugstore. For every one prescription someone drops off, expect a 5 minute processing time. What most people don’t realize is that we don’t just type the label and count the pills. We have to verify that the right drug is going to the right person, the dose and directions are appropriate for the person’s age, condition, won’t interact with other meds, etc. We want to make sure you get what you need and we may question the doctor if we feel it’s not the right fit.

5. Know how your prescription plan works.

It happens all the time. You get a new prescription for a brand name drug from your doctor. Your co-pay (what your insurance charges you for prescriptions) is fifty dollars. I can see your face starting to get red. Chances are, this brand name drug is not one your insurance company prefers. We can always call the doctor to get an alternative product that may be generic or may be a cheaper co-pay. I suggest putting member services into your cellphone contacts. We don’t always receive detailed messages from the insurance company telling us why your co-pay was this much or why that drug was not covered. Try and get a copy of your prescription formulary, which are the drugs that your insurance prefers. Bring it with you to the doctor’s office and show them that these are what your options are. Hopefully, the doctor will work with you and your budget so you aren’t spending all your hard-earned money on prescriptions.

6. Get to know your pharmacist.

I always tell my customers I love to see you but I don’t love to see you. What I mean is that I enjoy seeing you but I’d love for you to be healthier and on less medications. I will work with you to see if we can try some lifestyle modifications like diet and exercise to get you out of the pharmacy and out to your life.

7. Give people privacy.

The HIPPA law is about protecting patients’ privacy. It prevents me from blabbing to my husband about who was in for what prescription. Doctors, pharmacies and insurance companies can communicate between each other because we are health care providers. Because of HIPPA, privacy rooms designated for private counseling were introduced. When you are waiting in line to pick up a prescription give the person in front of you space so you don’t overhear their conversation. I may ask you to move away from the counter if I feel you are within earshot.

8. Please be patient.

Pharmacy volumes vary, so be patient. We are trying to get you home as soon as we can, but at the same time we do not want to make a mistake. Your life and health are in our hands and we take our jobs seriously. We are also multitasking machines. A patient was just discharged from the hospital with 17 prescriptions, the phone is ringing off the hook, doctors are calling, and we have 3 insurance problems that need to be fixed. We get busy just like any other job.

9. Avoid peak times.

These are the times when most people are out of work (4- 6 p.m.) or running errands after the weekend. Mondays are usually our busiest day so if it’s something routine that can wait for another day, it will save you lots of waiting.

10. We might not have your medication in stock or we might not have the full quantity.

Your doctor sends over a prescription electronically and we do not have that particular item. There are a number of reasons why we might not have it including we have never dispensed it before, it was recalled, the manufacturer has had problems supplying it or they do not make it anymore. Hopefully, we will be contacting you to let you know we do not have it before you make the trip.

Make your trip the pharmacy a little less painful by keeping these tips in mind.  If you educate yourself you will have all the tools you need to have a great pharmacy experience.

July 11th, 2011

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