When efficiency is all that matters

February 15, 2011

A retired chain pharmacist reflects on the downside of a culture that values efficiency above all.

Key Points

A bald-faced lie

The chains enthusiastically embrace the latest technology to improve efficiency. Very few pharmacists would elect to go back to using typewriters, figuring clerk timecards by hand, or using a bulky order book for the weekly Rx order. But technology can have a downside. For example, many pharmacy computers now have the ability to transmit data to our bosses about our speed and efficiency in filling prescriptions.

A major drag

Efficiency is what the chains are all about. The chain concept is meant to facilitate economies of scale. Mass purchasing of products allows lower unit costs. Chainwide computerization means that stores can be run more efficiently.

Conversely, the foundation of the independent drugstore is customer service. The chains want the public to think that they offer customer service that's as good as that of the independents, but that's very often untrue. I've had bosses who ridicule pharmacists behind their backs for spending too much time talking with customers. The chains say they want us to speak with customers, but most pharmacists realize quickly that the chains don't really mean it. The chains have always viewed patient counseling as a major drag on productivity that adds nothing to the bottom line.