Karen Berger, PharmD
Karen Berger, PharmD, graduated from the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy in 2001. She has worked in community pharmacies for over 17 years as a Pharmacist in Charge, staff, and floater pharmacist for a large chain. Currently, she is a pharmacist at an independent pharmacy in Northern NJ. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
For those of you who haven't heard, Ms. Hyland, a kidney transplant recipient, was suffering from an infection (it was not clear as to the nature of the infection) over the weekend, and on Monday the doctors from her transplant team sent over a prescription to her pharmacy, a CVS. She said they attempted to send the prescription several times and by 7 pm, her pharmacy had not yet received the Rx.
"Lies," she states on her Twitter video. At 7:30 p.m., she said she again called her pharmacy and was informed that they did indeed receive the prescription and were filling it, and that they would call her before they closed. Because the hours were posted online, she thought the pharmacy closed at 10. But her search engine results did not differentiate pharmacy and front store hours . Following the incident, Ms. Hyland posted several videos on Twitter. In the first video, she angrily addresses CVS, and in the second, she tells people who disagree with her to "kindly *expletive* off."
My take on what happened with the limited information we have is as follows. After that 7:30 phone call, I would think most patients would then head to the pharmacy immediately to pick up their prescription. Once the pharmacy staff knows the patient is waiting for an antibiotic, most times they would fill it and tell her to come right over to pick it up.
Also, on the phone call, it seems as if she did not ask what time they closed, and was upset when they closed at 9. She thought they closed at 10 due to finding hours on her computer's search engine, not the CVS website or by asking the staff when she talked to them. Since she stated that she was in a lot of pain for several days, I would have even more so thought she would have headed right over to get started on this medication. When you're in pain, especially for days, every minute counts and I am surprised she didn't head right to the pharmacy once she confirmed they received the Rx. In fact, I think most pharmacists are used to filling acute prescriptions quickly BECAUSE they expect those patients to come in within the hour. I know that when I see a queue full of e-scripts, I triage and fill antibiotics first and maintenance medicines after. It is just a nature we develop over time, how to prioritize.
I reached out to Mike DeAngelis, Senior Director for Corporate Communications for CVS Health. He explained that patients enroll in a text alert service where they get notified of prescriptions when they are ready. In regard to Ms. Hyland, he stated: "We responded to Sarah's tweets yesterday to express our concern and to learn more about her experience. Our district pharmacy supervisor also contacted her directly last evening to apologize, address and resolve her complaints. We were also able to ascertain that one of her issues was the result of her using a third party website's listing of the store hours, rather than our own online store locator that includes the correct hours of operation for the pharmacy. We are addressing the service issues with pharmacy staff, and following up with the third party sites that post store hours information."
Humorous to note, many pharmacy staff members made comments along the lines of "didn't she receive 25 texts and 16 phone calls," knowing all too well that chain pharmacies are very big on notifying patients of ready prescriptions.
I reached out to Ms. Hyland twice via Twitter as well as to her publicist also twice via email, and received no response from either of them.
I think the takeaway here is that there is no clear black and white answer but we can all learn to keep a few things in mind, pharmacists and patients alike. As a side note, I am not directing this to the pharmacy staff who filled this particular prescription. Due to HIPAA the pharmacy can't tell their side of the story and the Rx may have been called in 5 minutes before closing and there are so many other factors that could have occurred. I am not blaming the pharmacy here. I am just making a general statement that we can all keep in mind. We can only do our best, and I know so many pharmacists out there and we all mean well and no one wants any patient to go without important medications.
As pharmacists, If we know a patient will need an antibiotic ASAP and it is near closing time when the prescription is sent in, delegate a staff member to reach out to the patient. It's great customer service and best for the patient. Obviously time does not permit making phone calls for every situation but if you use your judgment, that helps guide what calls need to be made. When I worked for CVS, I would frequently make sure that patients were notified immediately of last minute prescriptions. At my independent, we stamp all new prescriptions "call when ready."
As a patient, it is empowering to take charge of your health. Sure, patients depend on us to take care of their medicine needs, especially with so many advances such as automatic refill programs. However, If it is getting late and you know that your doctor should be sending in an antibiotic, it is easy to call the pharmacy to find out the status. Tell the pharmacy staff you are on the way, and you aren't feeling well.
We are sympathetic people and will do anything to help you. Please also remember, the pharmacy is also dealing with hundreds of prescriptions per day behind the scenes with many insurance problems and other issues that tie up the staff. It can never hurt to make a phone call and advocate for yourself. Lastly, if you are a patient and you have a problem with your pharmacy, start with your pharmacist rather than turning to social media. We are some of the best problem solvers around!
What do you think of the Sarah Hyland situation? I would love to hear your thoughts. Email me anytime at email@example.com