DRHOOK- Don't be a pill: Pharmacy chains can try patients' patience

the handsome doctor John Hong of Charlottesville

Pharmacy comes from the Greek word pharmakeia, which means "druggist's work." My auntie was called "The Bionic Pharmacist" in the ‘70s because she worked super fast and super well. (Also I think she had a bionic ear like the character Jaime Sommers– because she heard everything.)   

   Growing up in Nowhereland, we went to our local pharmacy to get everything from toothpaste to an ice cream float. "Could I have Kleenex, nail polish remover, and some Percocet?"  

   Where are the nice privately owned pharmacies?

   Okay, I'll admit I'm biased about small, privately owned businesses like my own. But I keep hearing patients complain more and more that their franchised pharmacy treats them like "another brick in the wall."

   One of the largest pharmacy chains in my area has more branches than Starbucks.  (I'm glad Starbucks is reducing the number of stores. Until recently it seemed like there was a Starbucks inside every Starbucks.) 

My latest gripe with this huge chain pertains to the one near me. My patients have to wait there a long time. Some in fact don't wait at all! They're told to go back to my office to get their medicine. 

Some claim they've been told, "Prescription? We don't know what you're talking about. Go back to your doctor!"

   The government is starting to require everyone to use electronic prescriptions, so I've been doing that. This system isn't perfect yet, and sometimes it takes over an hour for the pharmacies to receive the prescription order. Since we all know that, don't you think the pharmacist would take that into account before asking the patient drive back to see me? 

   Because this problem has occurred several times, I've been warning my patients to be patient. But even after waiting, some were still asked to return to my office.

   I ended up calling this pharmacy several times. Voila! The pharmacist would say, "Oh, it is here! I don't know what the problem is." 

As much as I've tried to solve this problem with them, no one will help (and I've heard through the grapevine that my office isn't the only one suffering from this problem). I left a message with a pharmacy tech for the manager to call me because he doesn't have voice mail. (Four days later, I had not received a response.)

   On the other hand, small privately owned pharmacies have been more than accommodating to both patients and doctors' offices. They work with the patients instead of blaming it on them or the doctor's office or the insurance company. 

Brenda Plantz, who works at a small pharmacy in Crozet, spoke with me about the advantages of private pharmacies. The art of pharmacy is disappearing, she says, because so many pharmacists don't know their clients anymore. It has become more "get the client in and out." 

   Though I've seen commercials with fake actors in front of shelves full of pills and bottles of medicine pretending they're looking out for their customers, I have yet to see it. On the other hand, small pharmacies go the extra mile to help our patients. Parkway in Crozet, Timberlake's (which has a soda fountain), Gordonsville, and Meadowbrook pharmacies all have been great to work with, and their clients are very loyal to them.

   Got ERxs?


Dr. Hook cracks a joke or two, but he's a renowned physician with a local practice and a website, drjohnhong.com. Email him with your questions.