Magazine article Drug Topics

How to Deal with Rising Anger among Pharmacy Patients

Magazine article Drug Topics

How to Deal with Rising Anger among Pharmacy Patients

Article excerpt

Rage is changing its venue from the road to the store. In pharmacies, increasing numbers of angry patients are venting their frustrations with insurance rules, rising Rx costs, and their own time pressures. While the pharmacist certainly isn't to blame, he or she is in direct line of fire-and getting hit, if the sizable response to last month's Forum on "Angry Patients" is any indication.

"We have become the whipping boys for anything that goes wrong with the insurance, not to mention anything the physician does wrong," commented Randy Stiles, a staff pharmacist at Family Drug in Pikeville, Ky. In dealing with an angry customer, he relies on teachings from a Dale Carnegie book. "These tenets have helped me defuse some tense situations," he said. They include:

There are no winners in an argument.

Let them talk themselves out before you speak; it helps them calm down.

Customers are not always right, but they deserve respect and to be listened to.

If you can, get on their side of the issue and agree with them.

Joseph Scalese, pharmacist-incharge at CVS #1435, Hagerstown, Md., concurred. "If the anger is directed at the insurance company, I agree with them and offer them the phone. I even mention that I hate my own insurance company." When the anger stems from something caused by Scalese or his staff, and it can be rectified, "I apologize profusely, walk out of the pharmacy section, stand right next to them, and SMILE. It is harder for customers to stay mad at someone on their same level." If he or his staff is being unjustly criticized, "I take short, deep breaths and try to keep the peace. If the problem is out of my control, I acknowledge that fact, try to find an answer for them, and above all else, SMILE."

Long waiting time-a topic raised by several forum participants-is a prime temper trigger. Guy Carrington, an Appomattox, Va., pharmacist-- in-charge, said, "This is out of our hands. I find I have to check behind more doctors, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants who, rushed, are making many more mistakes than in the past."

Veronica Arnold, a certified pharmacy technician at Caremark in San Antonio, agreed. "Many delays are due to PA. and M.D. mistakes but also to inexperience behind the counter. Even though the techs or R.Ph.s are certified does not mean they can handle whatever is thrown at them. Adequate training is mandatory. …

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