After 17 years working in a pharmacy, I notice many of the same issues over and over, many of which can be easily prevented. I have collected tips over the years, and recently gathered some more from my pharmacy colleagues. Here are some tips, in no particular order, to have the best experience at your pharmacy.
Be Thoughtful about the Pharmacist’s Time:
First and foremost, please do understand how busy and stressed we are behind the counter. A great reminder of our day: https://www.peoplespharmacy.com/2018/08/02/why-we-cant-just-slap-a-label-on-it/ and the first don’t – don’t ask us to just slap a label on it!
Do know that pharmacy is not like fast food – everyone wants everything right away, but any mistake can be fatal. Please do not rush your hardworking pharmacy staff; they are doing the best they can.
Do call ahead for refills if possible, and also, check the bottle – if the prescription has no refills or if the prescription is expired, the pharmacy will need to contact the doctor for a new Rx. In this case, even better if you can call several days ahead to give the doctor time to reply to the pharmacy’s refill request. Take responsibility for your health. If we have called your doctor 3 times for a refill and they have not replied, you may want to try calling as well.
We don’t mind ringing up a few items, but please don’t come to the pharmacy with an overflowing cart and say, “Can you just ring this up here, there’s a line in the front?”
Please know what you want to refill – so many people call and say, “refill everything!” and then arrive at the pharmacy saying, “put this back, put that back.”
Most prescription items are carried regularly in the pharmacy, but there are a handful of medications that often need to be special ordered. If you know that your medication was specially ordered in the past, always call a few days ahead. Be prepared!
Always have your most recent prescription insurance card. Sometimes, both the medical AND prescription information is on one card, and sometimes you will have two different cards. In that case, the medical card is useless at the pharmacy. Be sure to bring your prescription card – it should have a BIN and PCN number as well as some words like Rx, prescription, pharmacy, etc.
Please give us your full attention, and end your private phone calls before approaching the pharmacy counter. We don’t want to give you the wrong prescription because you’re too busy gossiping with your friend and you aren’t fully paying attention. Also, HIPAA!
Please know that although your doctor means well, he/she doesn’t know how long the prescription will take to arrive at the pharmacy (electronic prescriptions may arrive anywhere from immediately to several hours).
Therefore, it is a good idea to call before you come in to see if your prescription is ready. Doctors also do not know how much your prescription will cost. This is not an insult to doctors – the pharmacy staff also does not know how much your medication will cost until it is processed electronically through your insurance.
Know Your Insurance:
Do understand what a prior authorization (PA) is. I find this to be a very poorly understood concept. Most patients think the authorization is the prescription written by the doctor, and blame the pharmacy for the delay. However, it really means that the insurance needs more clinical information from your doctor before they will pay for your prescription. Often, it is to your benefit to follow up with your doctor on these as well, because doctors are likely up to their ears in prior authorization requests.
Do be understanding if we have to call your doctor to clarify something. A missing quantity, sloppy handwriting, a drug interaction, etc. – all of these need to be clarified for your safety.
Follow the Instructions on the Prescription:
Do follow directions as written on the prescription. If your doctor changes the dose, that is fine – just have your doctor call in a new prescription with the correct dose. If you are taking Lipitor 10 mg and the doctor tells you to just take two a day instead of one, you will run out early and have problems trying to refill it.
Following directions is especially critical on controlled substances and narcotics, such as Vicodin, Percocet, etc. Many times, patients use the medications too fast, and due to company policy/state and federal laws/insurance/our license, we cannot fill these early. If your doctor writes the prescription for 1 tablet every 6 hours, but you need it every 4 hours, don’t be shy about talking to your doctor about changing the directions/quantity or adding/adjusting a longer acting medication.
We don’t mind when you wait for a prescription, but please stand to the side, browse the store (we will page you), or have a seat in the waiting room. Pharmacy staff do not enjoy being stared at while working.
Do call your insurance if you have a question about the price. The pharmacy staff enters the insurance information, the claim is sent electronically, and the price prints out without the pharmacy staff entering a price at all. You may have a deductible, or if you have Medicare Part D, you may be in the donut hole. It’s always good to check with your insurance with these questions.
We Can Help You Save Money:
Do use generics when possible! As a pharmacist, I always choose generics for myself when buying over the counter products, and prefer generic Rx items, to save money.
Do ask for advice on over the counter meds. We are glad to help. Just don’t say, “ok thank you, I’ll buy this down the street, it’s cheaper.”
Work with Your Pharmacist:
Do be proactive when you go on vacation. Most insurances can work with the pharmacy to provide a vacation override. However, it makes things difficult when you show up an hour before your flight with no refills and you’re too soon to fill the prescription anyway.
Do get to know your technicians. A pharmacy cannot run without efficient, smart technicians. They can help you with almost anything.
Be loyal! Use one pharmacy, so we can keep track of any drug interactions.
Do use the automated system/app/text messaging to refill your prescriptions. They are effective and save time.
Do use the pharmacy for your vaccine needs! It is easy and convenient. Even better? Call ahead and ask when the best time is to come in.
Do double check with your pharmacist if a medication looks different than before. Most times, it is just a change in manufacturer, but it’s best to be safe to make sure an error did not occur.
Be respectful of the pharmacy’s operating hours. If you go to a grocery store or bank that is closed, you go home, but people tend to expect pharmacies to stay open way past the operating hours. If the pharmacy closes at 9:00, don’t show up at 8:55 with 5 prescriptions from two weeks ago and ask to wait.
Do be patient! We are working as hard as we can, often in an understaffed situation put upon by corporate, and the time it takes is for your safety. A smile and patience go a long way from both of us!
Don’t knock on the counter, say things like, “Hello? Anyone here?” We are getting to you as fast as we can!
Don’t come to the pharmacy AFTER grocery shopping, and then become upset when your ice cream melts in the trunk. Also, don’t ask us to hurry because someone is waiting in the car. It’s best to go home, put your groceries away, drop off your husband, etc., and then come back.
Do ask questions and don’t be shy about it! We are here to help you. We want you to understand your medications and are always happy to help.
A Special Section on the Drive Thru
Do be patient. Drive thrus are for convenience, not faster service. Please do not ask to wait for your prescription in the drive thru. Patients are continuously coming and going, and we can’t hold up the line for patients to wait. Most pharmacies have spaces (or the parking lot) where you can pull over and wait, and get back in line when you get an automated call or text that your prescription is ready.
Secure your money in the drive thru window. For example, place dollar bills under the pen, otherwise your money could fly away. Also, don’t just throw 200 pennies loosely into the window.
Please do not ask the pharmacy staff to get nonessential items from the drive thru. Tylenol for your sick baby- absolutely. Potato chips- nope.
Do come in and talk (or call!) if you have extensive questions – again, it holds up the line. If you need to talk to the pharmacist for more than a few minutes, no problem, just don’t hold up the line of cars.
Please do not talk on the phone while in the drive thru. It is hard enough to hear our drive thru patients through staticky intercoms, we can’t compete with your other conversation, and besides that, it could violate your privacy.
Please do not honk or smoke in the drive thru. Be courteous and kind. Turn down your music and focus on the transaction.
Do respect the staff and come to the drive thru during operating hours. If the pharmacy closes at 9:00, be at the drive thru by 8:45 at the latest.
Be ready when the employee comes to the window. Please don’t ring the bell and make the busy staff wait while you shuffle through your purse looking for your prescription or insurance card.