Advice for Pharmacy Customers


A list of pointers for pharmacy customers on how to turn their pharmacist into a valuable resource.

I've been noticing something about my patients at work lately. They listen and make eye contact. They nod and express their understanding in response to my counseling. But they don't ask nearly enough questions. Here are some things I find myself constantly reminding my patients to do:

Come at the right time. We all have patients who are in a hurry, those on the brink of complaining over wait times, and those who just don't need a maintenance medication filled right before closing time. The busiest days at pharmacies vary by location, but it's safe to say that Tuesdays through Thursdays are less busy. Waits will be shorter, and the pharmacist can spend more time with patients to talk over any concerns. What time of day is best? Usually between 10 AM and noon (avoiding the morning and lunch rushes) along with the afternoon hours between 2 and 4 PM. It's also a good idea to try avoiding the first and last days of the month. Making patients aware of your "schedule" can help create a happier, more positive work environment.

Know about low-cost alternatives. In today's pharmacy, there are a lot of great drug choices: both brand and generic. Some medications are offered at a number of different prices, and these options may also be reimbursed by prescription insurance plans at different rates. Pharmacists can communicate with prescribers to come up with the most affordable options through MTM or general counseling services.

Get coupons. If a patient is on a brand-name medication and they haven't checked to see if there is a coupon available for it, they may be missing out on some serious savings. Many manufacturers offer coupons or co-pay cards that patients can sign up for to save money on medications. Patients can easily search for coupons online using the brand drug name. Some health care providers also receive coupons from drug reps, so remind patients to ask if there are any available for the drugs they are being prescribed.

It is important to fill all prescriptions at a single pharmacy. Patients may see a number of different prescribers and some may not be aware of all the prescription drugs, OTC drugs, and supplements they are taking. If patients use a single pharmacy, their pharmacist can take into account their entire medication history and make sure there are no potential adverse drug interactions. In addition, many pharmacies have computer systems that automatically flag any possible interactions.

Enroll in a discount program. Many pharmacies offer discount programs that can help patients save on generic drugs. These programs may not necessarily be publicized, so remind patients to ask your pharmacy team if they qualify. For example, Walmart and Target offer hundreds of generics at $4 per month. Walgreens and CVS charge a small annual fee for similar savings on generics, and some independent pharmacies offer competitive prices as well.

Ask about OTC drugs. Pharmacists see patients in aisles contemplating various boxes all day long. With so much health information available online, patients can easily succumb to paralysis by analysis, trying to make the “right” choice in theory but unable to choose in practice. In reality, all the medications on all those shelves of cold remedies contain only about 10 different active ingredients. The pharmacist can listen to a patient’s symptoms and immediately recommend a suitable product. Remind them you are a valuable resource that they should make use of whenever they can!

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