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May 06 2018

Are Your Customers Waiting too Long for Prescriptions?

Few things are more distressing to a pharmacist than to peer out at the pharmacy waiting area and see an obviously ill patient waiting for a prescription to be filled. It’s especially heartbreaking when the patient is a child, or a senior citizen. And while most patients understand it takes time to process and fill a prescription, there is a point at which a “normal” wait time is deemed to be excessive. Since a pharmacist doesn’t have a way to gauge each patient’s “wait time breaking point,” it’s best to try and improve overall work flow processes, as a way to minimize wait times for everyone.


A first step though, is to understand industry “norms” for prescription fill times, and patient satisfaction – or dissatisfaction with those averages. Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceutical’s 2016 PULSE survey of pharmacies and customers, found that while more than half (54 percent) of pharmacies surveyed filled prescriptions in less than five minutes, 24 percent took up to 30 minutes, and for seven percent of pharmacies, the wait was even longer.


The survey also found independent pharmacies, and pharmacies located within food markets to have shorter wait times, while clinic pharmacies had longer wait times. The survey noted though, a trend among independent pharmacies for longer wait times.


While the issue of prolonged pharmacy wait times is certainly not new to the industry, innovative solutions are making it possible to address the problem. Much of this innovation is fueled by technology, which is having a tremendous impact on improving pharmacy efficiency, and helping to reduce – sometimes even eliminate – wait times.

Key benefits of an integrated technology solution may include:


  • Electronic Prescription Submission. This allows a doctor’s office to electronically transmit a prescription directly to a pharmacy. This eliminates the need for a patient to have to physically drop off the prescription. In many cases, a prescription can be filled in the time it takes the patient to drive from the doctor’s office to the pharmacy.
  • Text alerts when prescription is ready. By sending a text or email to the patient when the prescription is ready, a pharmacy can help a patient avoid having to wait. This is especially helpful when the patient is under the weather.
  • Recordkeeping. A technology system can include a records retention capability that allows for storage of patient insurance, physician and previous prescription history. Having this information readily available can facilitate the prescription fulfillment process, and provide necessary information that might otherwise require a call to an insurance company or doctor’s office.
  • Automatic renewals. Recurring medications can be automatically renewed, with a text reminder sent to the patient. This helps ensure medication adherence, and allows the patient to pick up the medication at their leisure.
  • Inventory management to avoid stock outs. The Pulse survey found inventory stock-outs to be a significant issue, with 40 percent of customers saying they had left a pharmacy without their medication, and 25 percent saying they ended up getting the medication at a different pharmacy. A technology solution will allow a pharmacy to know precise levels of all drugs in stock, and can automatically reorder when supplies run low.

While a pharmacy will never be able to eliminate patient wait times, technology offers significant opportunities to dramatically improve efficiency. Further, as pharmacies try to distinguish themselves from competitors, the value of minimizing wait times becomes even more important.