Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I Don't Work For Free

"Glad to know the employer is making money off of the pharmacists training and risk. When will pharmacists learn no to give their talents away?

We have already labeled ourselves as less than human by working long hours with no breaks or lunches.

Bad for the profession..Stand up for yourselves. Shame on you."

This statement was a response to my post about how I love to give flu shots. I disagree with it.

For one, there is very little risk involved in giving flu shots. Most people don't have any significant adverse reactions to them. Moreover, there's not much technique involved in giving one. You simply take the syringe and stick it in someone's shoulder muscle. It's really hard to mess that up. I hardly consider flu shots to be one of our "talents."

Finally, how exactly are we just giving these flu shots away. We make $15-$20 profit on each shot. That's good for the profession. It actually is smart business to do more flu shots because they are great for your gross margin. In addition, I do get paid to give them. I make nearly $60/hour to be a pharmacist. That salary encompasses all of my professional responsibilities. I'm not a mercenary. I don't get paid per task I perform. My company pays me that because I am a pharmacist and capable of performing the duties of being a pharmacist.

Quite honestly, flu shots are one of most worthwhile things that I do. I am preventing disease. My flu shots might prevent people from being hospitalized with the flu, and in that way, it saves the health care system a lot of money. I don't see how this is a bad thing.

Of all the useless things we do in the pharmacy (dispensing Zpaks for colds, codeine products for cough, free antibiotics, etc.), there's no way I'm going to "stand up" and refuse to do something that actually is beneficial to both our business and our customers' health simply because I don't get paid more to do it. I get paid enough already.

Pharmacist's salaries are not one of the problems with the profession.


pharmacy chick said...

Well Said Mike! We finally are doing something that doesnt' involve count/pour/lick/stick and people gripe. THIS is finally being a part of health care.

Anonymous said...


Reminds me of that good feeling we all had about OBRA 90.

Let me see if I can revive some memories by using your own words...

"Quite honestly, [couseling is} one of most worthwhile things that I do. I am preventing disease. My {counseling} might prevent people from being hospitalized with the {insert whatever here}, and in that way, it saves the health care system a lot of money. I don't see how this is a bad thing."

Agreed. However your point is moot after the chains start pimping out this "clinical" skill as just one more bullshit chore to do. Already there are drive though flu shots being performed and I give it 1 or 2 years before WM offers your "service" for free at the expense of your limited labor.

Just 1 more added chore for the fast food farmacists.

Pharmacy Mike said...

I admit that it's very possible that one of the big chain pharmacies will start giving away these flu shots for 10 cents on the dollar. I also admit that we could allow Medicare and other third parties to decrease the reimbursement on our administration fee so much that flu shots no longer yield a high gross margin.

However, right now that is not the case, and that's how flu shots are greatly different than OBRA 90. OBRA 90 added a responsibility on top of things we already do without paying us anything for carrying out that responsibility. OBRA 90 didn't in any way bring in profits. It just made us counsel patients.

Not that counseling is a bad thing. It's a good thing for patients to be taught how to properly use their medication. However, it doesn't help our bottom lines at all. Flu shots, on the other hand, are immensely profitable. Like I said, we make $15 to $20 profit on each shot. Medicare and other third parties that cover them provide adequate reimbursement for administering the vaccine.

As of right now, flu shots are good for our patients and very good for business. That's why all these pharmacies are suddenly jumping on the immunization band wagon. I work in a regional chain pharmacy and not one time did we ever receive a notice saying we really need to do a better job counseling our patients. However, we receive emails constantly telling us to push flu shots to our customers. The incentive is purely monetary.

Once again, I'll admit that Walmart could very well come along and fuck this whole thing up for everyone. It's happened before, and it can happen again. However, right now pharmacies seem to be doing the right thing by truly embracing the opportunity to make a lot of money off a service that is beneficial to the public.

For that reason, I'll ride this flu shot wave as far as it will take us.