Those of you who are Facebook friends with me might remember a conversation on my wall in January, when I found out Baby J had been given the wrong dose of prevacid by his California GI. I was so frustrated! Then my friend from grad school, Danielle (a pharmacy tech), started giving tips on how to find a pharmacist because having a good relationship with ours might have prevented the issue. As the conversation on my wall grew, it was evident that I wasn’t the only one who hadn’t thought about purposefully choosing a pharmacist before.
Given how much medication most of us Marfs take, I asked Danielle if she would be willing to write a guest post on the subject to further educate us all. After our experience and reading this, I know I’ve changed how I think about pharmacists!
Throughout the course of my pharmacy career, I’ve had more customers approach my counter with competitor prescription bottles and a complaint than I can count. They say to me, “I don’t like the service I was getting at Competitor Pharmacy. They were rude to me, they don’t answer my questions, and I’m tired of not knowing who is handling my medicine.” I always reassure these customers that they made the right choice by coming to me. I don’t say this because my corporate office wants me to bring in more business, I say this because I mean it. I’m a certified pharmacy technician on the road to becoming a pharmacist, and I have a goal; I want people to know what a great pharmacy really is! I want people to know how to find a good pharmacy, how to spot a good pharmacist, and I want them to know what it’s like to have a medical team on their side.
Finding a good pharmacy isn’t as hard as it may seem. I always tell people to talk to the staff at the pharmacy they choose to go to. Does the staff want to get to know you? Make small talk at first, but eventually talk about your family, your upcoming vacations, or even share a fun new dinner recipe you’re excited to try out. These are all things I, as a technician, discuss with my customers. Usually I’m the first one to make small talk, but I always appreciate it when a customer wants to get to know me as much as I want to know them. When people become comfortable with the staff at their pharmacy of choice, they’re more likely to call and ask questions, they’re more likely to stay adherent to their medication, and they’re more likely to learn more about any conditions they may have or may be treating. This, to a pharmacy, is great news! We want people to ask us about their medications; after all, that is what we are here for!
Another thing I say is a characteristic of a good pharmacy is their willingness to help you. Most people, honestly, do not know much about their insurance, let alone know how it works. As a pharmacy employee, I can assure you that we do not know how each person’s plan works, either. We do, however, have the ability to call and ask questions to your insurance company. On an average day I usually call two or three insurance companies for customers. Usually patients have a deductable to meet at the first of the year, so their copays are really high, or sometimes their copay just takes a jump through the roof, but, either way, I try to call for the customer to find out why they have to pay more. It’s not a requirement to call an insurance company for a patient, but it’s a courteous thing to do for someone if you have the time. Many places will also contact your doctor for you if you’ve run out of refills on your medication, and, in some states, the pharmacist might be able to advance you a day or two on your important medications until they hear back from your doctor. If you find that the staff of the pharmacy goes out of their way to advocate for you, then you’ve probably found a good place to be!
It’s always important to make sure you’re taking your medications correctly, and that you’re getting the most benefit from what you’re prescribed. I suggest calling the pharmacy and asking to speak to the pharmacist. Discuss with the pharmacist a time that would be best to come in and meet with them to discuss your medications and conditions, to make sure there are no interactions, and to make sure you’re getting the optimum results from your treatment. Be sure to bring in any over-the-counter medications with you when you meet the pharmacist. If the pharmacist takes time with you, explains things fully, is friendly, and gives you good information, then you likely have a great pharmacist on your hands! Keep in mind, though, that the pharmacist may not be able to meet with you for long, or may have to run back and forth to check prescriptions and manage their pharmacy. Pharmacists and technicians appreciate patient customers more than words can describe, so, if you’re patient with a good pharmacist, they’ll make sure you’re taken care of. Whenever you have questions about any medication, over-the-counter treatment, or other medical questions, do not hesitate to call your pharmacist! Your pharmacist and pharmacy staff are always there to help you. If you have found a great pharmacist and pharmacy staff, they’ll always be willing to help you. Please understand, though, that we’ll spend as much time with you as we can, but we have to tend to other things so that we can give everyone the best treatment possible.
Many people do not know about all of the wonderful tools your pharmacist and pharmacy staff have to offer. In the pharmacy profession, we learn about medications at a very in-depth level, and know what the medications do when they are in your body. Your doctor is the expert in diagnosis, and the pharmacist is the expert in treatment. The role of your doctor is supplemented by the role of the pharmacist, making the duo a team of medical experts working on your side. Many times doctors will call us and ask the best course of treatment for a patient. There are times that pharmacies have to call doctors because of drug interactions, incorrect dosage, or safety concerns. Even we struggle to read a doctor’s handwriting from time to time, so we sometimes need to call for clarification on what a prescription says. Occasionally we run into situations where the medication prescribed to a patient is so expensive that they cannot afford it. If discount coupons are not available to assist the patient, many times the pharmacy staff can contact the physician to see if there is a cheaper medication that could do the trick to help a patient. These are all things that show your pharmacist and doctor are a team that work in unison toward one goal: keeping the patient well.
When you call or come into a pharmacy, you do not always have to ask for the pharmacist right away, because often they’re unable to break away from what they’re doing at that moment. Do not be afraid to talk to the pharmacy staff! They, sometimes, will relay the question to the pharmacist so that an answer may be provided to you a little quicker. Sometimes the technician may have the answer to your question, too. The role of the technician is to assist the pharmacist, but they have limitations to what they’re able to do. The technicians can be some of the best advocates for you, as well. Often it is the technicians who will call your insurance company to find out why your copay increased, or they may leave a message with the physician to request a refill on your medication. Do not be afraid to talk to the entire pharmacy staff and get to know and trust them. They are there to help you with your needs, or even point you in the direction of someone who can best assist you.
A great pharmacy can change the way you look at your health care regimen. They work to give you information that keeps you and your family safe. Always ask them about your prescriptions, your over-the-counter medications, and even vitamins to make sure you’re taking each safely. Consult with your pharmacist to make sure any new prescriptions will not interact with other medications you’re on. Don’t hesitate to talk to a pharmacist about treatments you are on or conditions you may have. The pharmacy staff has a myriad of tools at their disposal to help patients make the best decisions about their medication regimen. By using these suggestions, I hope patients all over the country find a great pharmacy, and utilize all of the benefits the pharmacy has to offer.
Danielle Pierce is a nationally certified pharmacy technician (CPhT) and has been working in retail pharmacy for 7-8 years. She’s currently studying microbiology and plans to go on to pharmacy school. In her spare time she likes long walks on the beach and the Ohio State Buckeyes!