Magazine article Drug Topics

It's Always Been about the Staffing

Magazine article Drug Topics

It's Always Been about the Staffing

Article excerpt


I've been hearing it at pharmacy meetings and reading about it in pharmacy journals over and over for the last 35 years. Originally, it was called clinical pharmacy, then pharmaceutical care, pharmacist's care, patient care, and now MTM (medication therapy management). It always has to do with new initiatives, new systems, new procedures, etc., and it's all being marketed under the premise of "more time for the pharmacist to spend with patients." It always sounds great. It always sounds promising.

Now it's 201 1. The sad reality is that it's just not happening in retail chain pharmacy.

Don't get me wrong, I have always believed in it I have counseled my patients, done complete and thorough DURs (drug utilization reviews), and practiced pharmacy in a professional and ethical manner, but the bottom line reads like this: If pharmacists are working either by themselves or with only 1 technician in a chain pharmacy with a drive-through window, the pharmacists are still required to perform nonprofessional duties. As long as pharmacists work under these conditions, nothing is going to change.

Other duties as assigned

As we all know, some of these nonprofessional duties include:

* Waiting on customers/patients at the front counter

* Waiting on customers /patients at the drive -through window

* Answering incoming phone calls

* Selling pseudoephedrine (PSE) products

* Dealing with inventory and out-of-stock generic issues every day

* Calling insurance companies to obtain prior authorizations on patient prescriptions

* Calling insurance companies to obtain new prescription drug coverage information when the patients have not received their new cards (a legal requirement in my state of Illinois)

This list goes on and on.

It's obviously about staffing. It has always been about the staffing, and no professional pharmacy organization wants to tackle this problem.

The Mickey D's model

The standard chain-pharmacy setup with a drive -through window is based on a similar format used by McDonald's. McDonald's breaks down its operation into workstations (front counter, drive -through area, French fry station, hamburger/preparation, set-up station, etc.) and then they staff it with 1 or 2 people at each of these workstations.

The pharmacy has the same types of workstations (front counter, drive-through window, data entry station, fill station, verification station), but pharmacists also have additional work responsibilities, such as phone calls (incoming and outgoing) and third-party insurance problems (redoing insurance coverage under a new insurance plan, prior authorization issues, etc. …

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