Sunday, July 6, 2008

Customer interaction scenario

Here's the scenario:

A customer comes to the counter to pick up a prescription and has a question about the medication. However, not knowing enough to ask for a pharmacist, this customer simply asks the technician or clerk ringing up the sale. The question could be as simple as "Do I take this with food?" or it could be something as complex as "What herbal supplements should I avoid while taking this medication?"

The technician comes back and repeats the customer's question to the pharmacist. Now, here's the question I pose:

As a pharmacist, do you:

A) Finish what you are immediately doing, and then step up to the counter face to face with the customer to answer the question,

or

B) Give the answer to the technician for them to relay to the customer for you.


For all of you who chose A, pat yourself on the back for having a shred of common sense. Of course A is the correct answer. However, you'd be amazed at how many pharmacists choose option B when actually presented with this situation.

I believe that under no circumstances is it ever OK to have a technician relay your answer to a patient's question. For one, it makes it seem like you are too busy to answer the question yourself and discourages patients from asking questions in the future. Secondly, the technician may not repeat your answer 100% correctly because he or she does not have the same medication knowledge base as you. Thirdly, even if the technician does relay the answer correctly, and the patient understands that answer, the technician is not capable (nor legally allowed) of answering any follow-up questions. Therefore, the whole cycle of the technician running back and forth to relay questions and answers from patient and pharmacist starts all over again.

I know we're all really busy. I know that we're stressed out and feel like the slightest interruption will set us back another dozen prescriptions. However, I think it's imperative to go up and answer any questions face to face with the customer. It shows you care. It shows that you don't think of them as just a customer. Moreover, it causes them to respect you more as a pharmacist and view you as a health care professional instead of a pill counter. Once you have their respect, they'll be less likely to get angry at you if it takes a little longer than 20 minutes to fill their prescription. They'll be less likely to blame you when their doctor hasn't OK'd their refill request yet. In short, the patients' respect makes your job just a little less stressful and maybe a bit more rewarding.

Isn't that what we all hope for?

9 comments:

Dustin said...

Absolutely! I think every pharmacist should take the time to approach the patient at the window and personally answer all of their questions (except directing them to the deodorant or dog food aisle). Not only does it eliminate the cycle of relaying information, but also demonstrates your expertise and willingness to communicate face to face, and improves customer satisfaction and trust.

The Ole' Apothecary said...

I had an appointment with a urologist last year. In his waiting room, this doctor posted a sign that read something like, "Urology is an unpredictable specialty. I could get called away at any time. Another healthcare professional may meet with you..." etc. Sure enough, expecting to meet personally with my new doctor, I had to see his P.A. instead. I have been getting bills from this fellow, in his name, and I have never met him!! So, I think it would burn prescription customers to the third degree if, having had their doctor disappear earlier in the day, that they would have to play ping-pong between present technician and absent pharmacist to get answers to drug-related question. Indeed, making yourself available as a pharmacist might make you look very good in the light of the absent physician.

Anonymous said...

You forgot option (C): engage in a hollering match back and forth with the customer on the other side of the pharmacy. I've seen this a lot too. It's bad form, violates HIPAA ten different ways, and is just plain lazy.

Pharmacy Mike said...

Good point... I hate that too.

On a different but related note... There's nothing that makes me cringe more than when I hear one of our technicians yell out from 15 feet away, "What medication are you picking up???"

Anonymous said...

thank you for stating the obvious

Mallory said...

As a patient, I've found that my pharmacist does not have time to answer questions. Today when I picked up my new Tramadol prescription, I asked if there was anything I should know about taking it, and mentioned that I'm already on cocodamol. His reply - 'Not really - you'll find tramadol has less side effects.' Said over his shoulder while walking away from me. I didn't get a chance to ask my other questions, such as 'Will this interact with the other three medications I'm on?' 'Are there any herbal supplements I should avoid? etc.

I don't even have confidence that he was paying enough attention to my question to give me the right answer.

I'm changing pharmacy.

The Ole' Apothecary said...

Mallory, you are wise to change pharmacies. I, a pharmacist, was under so much pressure to dispense at maximum speed that I changed pharmacy CAREERS; I left community (retail) pharmacy and became a healthsystem (hospital or institutional) pharmacist. It was the best decision I ever made as a pharmacist.

If I were shopping for a pharmacy for myself, it would be a low-volume, prescriptions-only independent, like a Medicine Shoppe franchisee (I have a lot of confidence in this "chain" because those outlets are usually operated by high-minded, literally independent pharmacist owners who will give you a huge amount of personal attention). But, not finding a Medicine Shoppe, any small independent pharmacy with a stated goal of helping you stay healthy will do. I am betting that your pharmacist (the one who muttered over his shoulder) was at a Big Box national chain, no?

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Glad your doing well, keep those pills pumpin along. I'll be reading (almost) everyday.

Anonymous said...

Please tell me you live in MA