Hank J. Hoang, PharmD, MBA
Hank J. Hoang is currently a pharmacist at the US Food and Drug Administration. Dr. Hoang earned his Doctorate of Pharmacy from the University of Charleston and completed a Master's of Business Administration and Master's of Finance from Northeastern University. The views and opinions expressed reflect the views of the author and do not reflect the views of the FDA, the US Department of Health and Human Services, or any agency of the United States government.
1. Your pharmacist knows you by name
October is American Pharmacist Month, so hopefully you already know the name of your pharmacist. But does your pharmacist know you by name? If this is your first time stopping by, he or she might not know you quite just yet. But when you see your pharmacist grab your medication basket or bag before you get to the counter, that’s usually good indicator to stick around. Pharmacists can see over 20 patients and fill upwards of 200 to 300 prescriptions a day—the top-notch take an extra step by learning to match labels with faces.
If your pharmacist remembers you by name, they’re also likely know your allergies, habits (both good and bad ones), and which medication you might be running low on. Not only does it make your experience that much more personable, it’s also a good trait to look for in a pharmacist. If your pharmacist can remember all this and still make sure none of your medications are interacting, you’re probably in very capable hands. What if you find a pharmacist that can remember your date of birth too? Well, then you’ve stumbled upon a very rare and special pharmacist, and there’s probably not much more reason to even continue reading on.
2. Your medication is never out of stock
Does it seem like your medication is never in stock when you need a refill? Maybe you have a newer brand-name medication, or there’s a manufacture shortage. If you’ve spent an afternoon calling and going to 6 or 7 different pharmacies, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Busier pharmacies typically have a larger inventory, so there’s a higher probability that they’ll have your medication in stock. However, the secret ingredient to a good pharmacy isn’t simply finding one with the medication in stock.
The real secret is finding the pharmacist who offers to check the surrounding pharmacies for you. If you encounter a pharmacist who’s willing to go out of his or her way to help you avoid the hassle yourself, it’s a good indicator of excellent customer service and a well-run pharmacy. If that pharmacist is willing to help you find a medication you need, it’s also very likely that the same pharmacist will make the extra effort and ensure your medication will stay in stock for your next refill.
3. Works to get your medications covered
If your pharmacist tends to spend a lot time on the phone, it may not necessarily be a bad thing. They’re probably stuck on hold with the insurance company and are trying to connect with an actual human representative instead of those robotic interactive voice-response systems. Depending on your medication and situation, pharmacists might be able to “negotiate” a few things with your insurance company and get them to cover your medications.
If your pharmacist goes out of their way to work with the insurance company, or call a doctor to clarify directions, it demonstrates how much they care about your health and well-being. If that’s the case, there’s a good chance you’ll never go a day without your medication, let alone have to use another pharmacy. But although your pharmacist may be willing to pull out all the stops to ensure you get the medications you need, not all insurance plans or problems are easily remedied. So be patient, and if you find your pharmacist on the phone for an extended period of time, keep in mind they’re probably not talking about their weekend plans, but are trying to work on getting your prescriptions clarified or covered.
4. Technicians you can count on (pun intended)
In pharmacy school, one of my preceptors taught me a common but invaluable lesson on pharmacy management—a pharmacist can only be as good as their best technician. The truth is, although a lot of these “secret tips” are characteristics to look for in your pharmacist, they actually won’t have any merit without good pharmacy technicians to rely on. Behind every good pharmacist and pharmacy, there’s a team of good technicians.
Keep an eye out for the technicians who know you by name, go out of their way to find your medications, and work with the insurance companies or doctors to get your medications covered. The pharmacist is responsible for therapy management and understanding how medications work and interact, but the pharmacy technicians are the ones who carry a lot of the daily workload, including data entry, filling prescriptions, and stocking of inventory. Many pharmacy technicians also end up pursuing careers as pharmacists. So be sure to keep an eye out for those outstanding technicians, and show your appreciation on National Pharmacy Technician Day in October. You never know who just might be your next super-star pharmacist.
So the next time you need a prescription filled or you head in to pick up your refill, check to see if the pharmacy has these characteristics. If so, be sure to hop back onto Yelp or Google, put in a good review for your pharmacist and staff, and let others know about the gem you’ve discovered. Just like your relationship with your doctor, having a good relationship with your pharmacist can do wonders for both your sanity and your health.