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Patients Want Better Service and Shorter Waits, Survey Says

Author: Kate H. Gamble, Senior Editor

At a time when many pharmacists may feel as if they're being pulled in different directions, patient demand is at an all-time high, according to a new study, which found that patients expect more face-time with pharmacists and shorter wait times at the counter.

The J.D. Power and Associates 2011 US National Pharmacy Study reports that among chain drug store patients who wait less than 3 minutes to give their prescription information to pharmacy staff, satisfaction averages 836 on a 1,000-point scale, while satisfaction declines to 783 among those who have to wait more than 3 minutes. In comparison, satisfaction in 2010 significantly increased or decreased at 7 minutes.

Patients are expecting more, "not just in terms of wait time, but also in terms of contact with the pharmacist and pharmacy staff,” said Rick Millard, senior director of the healthcare practice at J.D. Power and Associates. “In fact, brick and mortar pharmacies are able to better differentiate themselves by offering additional services from the pharmacy staff. These personal contacts may help distinguish the store experience as satisfying for pharmacy customers.”

The study, now in its fifth year, measures customer satisfaction with pharmacies in 2 segments: brick and mortar, which includes chain drug stores, supermarkets, and mass merchandisers, and mail-order.

It found that although patients are considerably less satisfied with chain pharmacies than with supermarkets (808 vs. 826, respectively), satisfaction is lowest with mass merchandiser pharmacies (797). However, mass merchandiser pharmacies perform particularly well in cost competitiveness, according to the survey.

Mail-order findings
Overall satisfaction with mail-order pharmacies declined considerably from 2010 to 2011, a trend that was primarily driven by decreases in satisfaction in the prescription ordering and prescription delivery factor. Despite this decline, fewer mail-order customers than in any year the study has been conducted say they would switch to purchasing prescriptions in a store.

“Customers are looking for more efficiency in their pharmacy transactions,” said Millard. “There’s a clear opportunity for mail-order pharmacies to improve on the logistical aspects of the transaction.”

Approximately one-third of patients are required by their insurance provider to use mail-order for maintenance and repeat prescriptions; according to the survey, these consumers are even less satisfied with their pharmacy than are those who are not required to use mail order (771 vs. 836, respectively).

Mail-order pharmacy customers are significantly more satisfied when they have the ability to request overnight delivery and it is included free of charge. However, only 12% of mail-order customers say they are aware of and have access to this service.

Ranking the stores
Among chain drug store pharmacies, Good Neighbor Pharmacy and Health Mart ranked highest in a tie with scores of 851, and The Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy followed with a score of 831.All three are locally owned, independently operated community pharmacies.

"Independent community pharmacies pride themselves on providing expert medication counseling, competitive pricing and convenient service," said Robert Greenwood, RPh, president of the National Community Pharmacists Association, in a statement. "It's encouraging to see this reminder that our customers are taking note of that personal touch."

Among mass merchandisers, Target ranked highest among mass merchandisers for a fifth consecutive year with a score of 846, with Sam’s Club (837) and Costco (834) following.

Publix ranked highest for a second consecutive year in the supermarket segment, with a score of 867. Wegmans follows with 848, and Winn-Dixie ranks third with 834.

Kaiser Permanente Pharmacy ranked highest among mail-order pharmacies for a third consecutive year with a score of 848, followed by Humana RightSourceRx (840) and Express Scripts (813)  The Department of Veterans Affairs pharmacy service, which is open only to veterans of the US military and their families, and therefore is not included in the rankings, also achieved a high level of customer satisfaction.

The 2011 U.S. National Pharmacy Study is based on responses from more than 12,300 patients who filled a new prescription or refilled a prescription during the 3 months prior to the survey period. To access the report, click here.