Let’s Not Supersize That Rx Just Yet

I saw this headline on a LinkedIn update today from one of the many groups I subscribe to: New Survey: Walgreens’ Customers Flock to Independent Pharmacies.

Walgreens made a bold move and exited some major benefit networks. Thousands of people were forced to change pharmacies, but they actually found the move beneficial. Maybe they don’t have the McDonald-like drive thru pharmacy anymore. Nor do they have the nationwide access to their prescription at any of the Walgreens pharmacies they happen to be closest to when they remember they need to refill their medication.

What they DO have is a wide choice of independent pharmacies, where the transfer of medications is easy, and the care more individualized. I am not at all surprised that people who switched from Walgreens pharmacies to independents were more pleased with their service. When you go to a nice restaurant for a sit-down meal, are you not more happy with the service than with McDonald’s? The difference here is that you don’t have to pay more to get more.

I hope this reflects a shift in consciousness of healthcare consumers. I was speaking with someone just the other day about how Walgreens has dramatically hurt pharmacy. While they have made medications easily accessible, they also stress quantity over quality. They are the McDonald’s of pharmacy.  How many scripts can you fill in a day? The focus was no longer on the overall health of the patient, although advertising may make it seem that way.

The pharmacy used to be only run by independents, where the pharmacist knew all of their patients. But with our crazy, technology driven, fast-paced world, the convenience of a drive-thru pharmacy changed the mentality of nearly everyone when it came to medications. Pharmacists wonder why it is so hard to change the perception of people to understand that pharmacists don’t just stand behind a counter, that they actually do so much more. I can’t say that Walgreens is to blame for the shift, but it certainly took advantage of our current societal craziness and need for instant gratification. It took the fast-food mentality and ran with it, and made a killing.

Most of their pharmacists don’t have time to see their customers, let alone get to know them. Many of them want to, but the corporation won’t allow it. The independents still know their customers, and many are implementing Medication Therapy Management (MTM) services, or even Collaborative Drug Therapy Management (CDTM) services. Many, like Maui Clinic Pharmacy where I trained, are sponsoring Community Pharmacy Residencies. Pharmacy is changing, and I think this shift back to the community is just what we need. Thank you Walgreens.