5 Things To Make Your Trip to the Pharmacy Faster

We know you have busy lives.  We know you come into our stores and are on your way to or from work, with kids waiting in the minivan or with your elderly mother waiting to receive their pain medication after getting out of surgery. We know you probably don’t have a lot of time to needlessly wait around. But the problem is pharmacists can’t work faster than a certain rate or workload without increasing the chance of a preventable medication error.

The most critically important part of our jobs is to assess the appropriateness of all prescriptions – whether for a refill or a new medication.  We are ethically and legally obligated to take the necessary time to do so.  In fact, multiple surveys of pharmacists suggest high workload as the most (or one of the most) important factor of medication errors occurring at the pharmacy.  Maybe speed is a good quality to have if you’re a mechanic, but not so much for us mere pharmacists.

Pharmacies need to continually evolve with the growing amount of responsibilities that pharmacists face. The busier they are the more pharmacists have to better prioritize their work, and that involves taking more time to fill certain prescriptions while spending more time to remedy and prevent potential medication errors. Next time you cross a pharmacist, give them a big thanks for not rushing at their job. You will melt their hearts, trust me.  The following are suggestions that should safely help you from spending too much time waiting for your prescriptions.

5 Tips to Follow Before Going to the Pharmacy

1 – Make sure you have a list of active medications and that it is regularly checked with pharmacist/technicians

If you take a medication occasionally or every day, it’s a very good idea to know it’s name and strength (e.g.: warfarin or insulin). It also helps to remember what time(s) during the day you take it because some medications are very specific. However, because people often need more than one medication to control their medical condition(s), remembering every medication can be a very difficult task to do. Fortunately, pharmacists are a clever bunch and have tools which can help!

Ask your pharmacist for a wallet/purse size paper list of all your medications and carry it with you everywhere you go. You may have to use your reading glasses to read it, but they are very handy and a lot more practical than carrying all of your medication bottles with you at the physician’s office, for example. One last thing: you need to make sure it is constantly updated by either letting your pharmacy staff know if you’ve started or stopped taking any medication(s).

2 – Remember to bring in ALL your prescriptions that the doctor gave you on your last visits

Whenever you grab your keys to leave home for the pharmacy, ask yourself if you have any prescriptions tucked away somewhere from your recent visit to the doctor.   Some people have tendency to hold on to their newest precriptions in order to “use up” their remaining refills on their old scripts. We know you may not always like the news when you go to your physician/nurse practitioner and some of you seem to hold off seeing him or her untill you really have to,  but this is a potentially dangerous thing to do and can lead to medication errors which pharmacists are powerless to prevent.

This is because physicians have to monitor your health at certain intervals of time if you have chronic medical conditions, and one way they make sure you are following their recommendations are by prescribing medications for a specific amount of time. Another critical reason to not keep your new prescriptions like a squirrel hoarding nuts: often a physician will make a change in your medications and will either forget to tell you or, more likely, you will forget about the change.  Do yourself a favor and drop off all of your prescriptions so we can make sure you’re getting the right medications every time.

3 – Double-check you are low on certain pills and roughly determine how much days you have left

Check all of your prescriptions to see how many pills or days you have left. If you have only about 2 or 3 days left of medications, then you usually are due to have them refilled (see tip #4).  There are exceptions for controlled medications or any medications which the physician/nurse practitioner has set specific refill dates.  It is actually illegal to fill a controlled medication (like certain sleeping pills, stimulants for attention deficit disorders or painkillers) too early  –  because of their inherent abuse potential  –  and pharmacists can be disciplined through their societies/boards if they don’t follow this rule.

If you call in a week or more ahead of its due date, sometimes your insurance (if you have drug coverage) won’t pay for the medications, controlled or not. That happens more often than you would think, and unfortunately the problem lies with your insurance company’s policy and pharmacy staff are powerless to help.

4 – Use an App, Email or Call in your Medication Refills Ahead of Time

All pharmacies have options for you to let us know which medications you want refilled so they’re ready for you to pickup without waiting. Ask your pharmacy’s staff if you can refill your medications by telephone, email, through the store’s website or through an app.  For the latter two, make sure it’s a legitimate service (i.e.: official pharmacy chain app).

You can also have your refills renewed all at the same time – what’s called medication synchronization. Although you have to talk to your pharmacist or their assistant to make sure it is done safely, it can be an helpful way to organize your time, make less frequent trips to the store and help with medication adherence.

5 – Make sure you have your Insurance information

Insurance issues are often the cause of wait times at the pharmacy. If you changed jobs, if you started college or university, or if your boss announced that there are changes to you insurance coverage, it usually means that your prescription insurance information will change and your old card may not work. That’s why it is a good time-saving habit to always carry your valid prescription insurance with you in your purse or wallet.


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