Certainly, Sir. Would You Like Fries With That?

I went to my friendly neighborhood Walgreen’s the other day to pick up my prescriptions. I like this store because it has a drive-through. As I watched some schmo in the car ahead of me annoy the pharmacist from the safety of his front seat something occurred to me. No wonder pharmacists are complaining about getting no respect. Silly pharmacists – drive through’s are for hamburgers!

Think about it. McDonald’s: front counter, drive-through area, French fry station, hamburger station, set-up/prep station, etc. Maybe 1 or 2 people staff each station.

Your local chain pharmacy: front counter, drive-through window, data entry station, fill station, verification station, etc. Maybe 1 or 2 people staff the whole operation! But the schmo ahead of me is thinking: McDonald’s drive-through – fast food. Walgreen’s drive-through – fast pharmacy. He’s waving his arms wildly now and yelling at the pharmacist so he can be heard through the bullet-proof glass because those microphones in the clown’s mouth at the burger place never work. He just doesn’t get why he has to come back for his Simvastatin, Cialis, Norvasc, Xanax order. He doesn’t have to come back for a Big Mac!

What we have here is a bad case of fast food mentality. The boys in the front office created it. The schmo ahead of me caught it. And there’s no pill behind the glass that can cure it. You see, this guy probably came through and shoved four bottles into the drawer from a mail-order pharmacy. He wants to transfer his prescriptions to THIS pharmacy. He doesn’t want to wait. That’s why he came to the drive-through. Drive-through = fast food, or this case, fast pills.

OK.
First the pharmacist has to call the mail-order pharmacy. That’ll be 15 or 20 minutes, IF all goes well. In addition, the guy has new insurance. It’s three o’clock on a Friday afternoon and he’s going out of town this weekend. After 18 minutes of waiting on hold, the pharmacist is relieved to find that the mail-order scripts still have refills available. So he runs the first one with the new insurance…..it’s not covered. He explains to the guy that there are some generic refills available – maybe they will be covered. Schmo responds with much waving of arms and a sock to the steering wheel for emphasis. “Why can’t you call the doctor right now and get that prescription straightened out?” wonders Schmo. Sweat appears on the pharmacist’s brow. The phone is lit up. There’s a woman coughing discreetly at the counter. One tech is out sick. The other one wants his break. The pharmacist notices the other prescriptions are covered, but the co-pays are pretty high. He doesn’t have enough medication to fill the whole thing. Schmo blows a gasket over the prices. And so it goes…..

“Hey, Schmo,” I think to myself as I imagine the details of the drama unfolding ahead of me. “Get a grip!” That pharmacist behind the glass is NOT equal to the hamburger guy who slaps pickles on your bun at McDonald’s. He has at least a dozen other responsibilities and six other customers besides you and the health and well-being of all of you depends on the quality of his work. So can the attitude. And tell me something. Why on God’s green earth would you wait until three o’clock on Friday afternoon to fill prescriptions with NEW insurance when you’re leaving town in a couple of hours? And by the way, chewing out the pharmacist over prices is like harassing the waitress over the cost of your meal. Your prescriptions are expensive and he can’t write out new ones. If you want the cheap stuff, call your doctor. And here’s a clue: PICK UP THE PHONE
AND CALL AHEAD. If you had, your doctor could have been contacted and the right drugs could have been ordered.

Yeah, I know. It’s the staffing, stupid. If the suits at CVS and Rite-Aid and Walgreen’s want drive-through windows for those with fast-food mentalities, then they need to staff accordingly. They probably aren’t going to do that any time soon, but that’s a subject for another blog. In the meantime, when getting your prescriptions filled at your local pharmacy, use your head. Know your meds. Understand your insurance. This is your health, so take some responsibility for it. And dang it, Schmo, I know both guys behind the glass are wearing white coats, but applying condiments to your sandwich is simply not equal to double-checking your drug order for dangerous interactions. Those heavy-duty prescription medications you’re on have the potential of really messing you up if  your pharmacist doesn’t get it right. So think about it, Schmo. Do you really want it fast? Or do you want it good?

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