Monday, July 25, 2016

Spotlight on patient-centered care vs. customer-service

From my experience working in a community pharmacy, I have seen many different patients.  Those that understand the role of a pharmacist providing medication therapy management compared to those who only see pharmacists as “pill counters.” 

I have heard lines like:

"It’s a packaged medication; you just have to put a sticker on it.” 

“Doctor prescribed it for me, so it must be right.”

"30 minute wait? I don’t get why it would take so long.”
In response to these, I always explain to the patient that at the pharmacy, we provide patient-centered care NOT customer service.  Customer service is the process of ensuring that the customer is satisfied with a product or service.Patient-centered care defined by the Institute of Medicine is “care that is respectful of and responsive to individual patient preferences, needs, and values.2  

Once a person walks into the pharmacy and drops off their prescription, they become our patient.  We are responsible now for them to ensure that their medications are indicated, the most effective, safe and convenient for them (whether it’s timing of medication or cost).  For that reason, we need to take some time to ensure your antibiotic mediation does not interact with your cholesterol medication, and if there is, guide you on what to do.  We need to take some time to ensure the right medication is filled.  We need to take some time and fax your doctor with clarifications on your prescription, as all doctors are humans, and sometimes they can make mistakes.  We need to take some time as there are five other people also waiting for their prescription, and the process of checking needs to be done for each of them for all their prescriptions.  

We may not provide the best customer service (as medications may not be ready in 5 minutes, or it may not be ready at all as problems arose).  However, in the pharmacy, we strive to provide the best patient-centered care.  To ensure no mistakes are being made while filling your prescription.  To ensure that your medication is the most appropriate choice for you based on your age, your allergies, your conditions, your current medications and more.  

Pharmacists are more than just “pill-counters.”  I believe patient-centered care is also about respecting each other and developing a mutual relationship that puts the patent in the centre of care. 

In conclusion, people should not expect the pharmacy to be like a fast food restaurant.  When you order your prescription, expect there to be a wait-time to ensure you are receiving the best care possible for you.   Similar to how you wait at a doctor’s office for diagnosis, you should be expected to wait at the pharmacy for medication therapy management

1. Investopedia (2016).  Customer service.   Retrieved on July 252016 from
2. Frampton, S. B., Guastello, S., & Lepore, M. (2013). Compassion as the foundation of patient-centered care: the importance of compassion in action. Journal of comparative effectiveness research2(5), 443-455.