Appearance matters: A legible label is the least we can do


Whether you like it or not, your patients are paying attention, and judging all of us.

Whether you like it or not, people will judge you based on your appearance.

David StanleyI’m sure no one out there wore sweatpants to a job interview, and a person dressed in a sharp business suit at your counter is very likely to be treated differently than a dopey looking kid with his pants low enough to be showing the world his butt.

Which is why I was so embarrassed for the profession when the lady in the sharp business suit handed me a vial from one of my big chain competitors. This piece of plastic was example number one of why it used to be standard practice to put a piece of tape over a prescription label. The printing was smudged and smeared beyond all recognition. It had only been 30 days since this woman had been handed a brand-new, freshly printed prescription label, yet this thing in my hand looked like it had been found in some ancient archeology dig.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t a one-time occurrence. Almost every time I see a vial from this particular company, it looks (to put it kindly) unprofessional. The words I would use to describe it are unprintable in a professional magazine. You couldn’t verify anything printed on this label because you couldn’t very well see it. The part I could see referred to the contents as tablets when the product was actually a capsule. From my vantage point, this company (which I won’t name) is the leader in this type of cheapness. . . and it is not alone. I’ve seen similar examples before from a wide cross-section of our profession.

Now I don’t want to sound like an old “get off my lawn” type of crank, but I was taught that every prescription vial that goes out the door represents a tiny advertisement for our store. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who learned this. After all, they wouldn’t sell a product called “prescription label tape” if there weren’t people out there using it for this express purpose. But somewhere along the line, the professionals in our business stopped telling the money masters that they needed X number of dollars to do their job well, and instead started accepting Y number of allocated dollars and doing the best they could with that amount. So the tape was no longer ordered-an unnecessary expense in a brutally efficient business world, and labor budgets were cut to the point where some pharmacists are OK with a trivial error as long as it keeps production moving. Just take one every eight hours. It doesn’t matter if the thing is a tablet or capsule!


The result is that patients all too often get their meds in something that makes us look like a bunch of corner cutting amateurs. How can we expect them to trust us when we explain what they’re supposed to be doing with their drugs if we can’t even get the label on straight?

So I’ll be keeping my tape in my store. It doesn’t cost that much, and what expense is incurred I’ll put under my advertising budget. And every time I see one of those crummy, very sloppy vials come in from my competitor,  I’ll put it next to one of mine and know I’m doing the right thing. It’s time for pharmacy to stop showing the world its butt, pull up its pants, and put on a decent outfit.

Because whether you like it or not, your patients are paying attention-and judging all of us. 



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