Magazine article Drug Topics

Transfer of Rx Business Puts Strain on Workload

Magazine article Drug Topics

Transfer of Rx Business Puts Strain on Workload

Article excerpt

When Murphy's Law strikes, it does so with a vengeance. CVS pharmacists in North Carolina's Raleigh-Durham market found that out the hard way over a four- to six-week period that began when CVS bought the prescription business Kaiser Permanente sold when it exited the area in December 1999.

According to David Work, executive director, North Carolina Board of Pharmacy, approximately 70,000 prescriptions per month were being filled at Kaiser pharmacies. Transfer of those prescriptions to CVS equated to roughly 150 new Rxs per day in the Research Triangle Park area. Although the situation "has alleviated somewhat," the result was a "serious overload on the CVS pharmacist," Work said.

More than one pharmacist close to the situation said it's difficult to point the finger at any one party, due to the series of events that led up to the transfers of the Rx business. "It seems [CVS] did not know it had the contract until a few days before it was finalized. Therefore, they're telling employees that they did not have adequate notice to get proper help with the workload," said Al Lockamy, RPh., who works as a pharmacy manager for CVS but emphasized that his comments were being made from his perspective as a 10-year member of the pharmacy board.

One CVS pharmacist, who asked not to be identified, said, "They didn't plan at all [for the increased volume]." "I don't know that I can blame that on anybody The way I understand it is that they put a bid in and were rejected. Then, right at the last minute, Kaiser said, 'OK, we're taking your bid."' CVS officials could not comment on the accuracy of that, however.

Regardless of the cause, Lockamy said the transfer was "total chaos" for several reasons, including a problem with the new insurance cards that were issued at the beginning of the transition. A second round of paperwork commenced when patients switched plans Jan. 1. Then there was trouble downloading files, because Kaiser's software was not compatible with CVS'. Add the already-- high volume of the flu season and an uncharacteristically severe winter in North Carolina and, voila, Murphy's Law was proven again. "It was an exercise that people have to go through to really appreciate," Lockamy said.

The CVS pharmacist in RaleighDurham Drug Topics spoke with said the prescription volume in his store jumped between 600 and 800 per week in early December. The pharmacy staff, he noted, had "no warning, no additional help" at the time. He said the store got approval to increase pharmacist hours in early February, and there has been discussion of adding an additional pharmacist to split time between his store and another busy CVS nearby "[The company] is trying, but in the beginning it was very, very frustrating. …

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