How to Choose a Pharmacy

Many patients have been lulled into the reasoning that in order to get a prescription filled, they need to stop by the most conveniently located big-box pharmacy. They become comfortable with a particular store, and for no reason other than convenience, they continue to frequent the same pharmacy.

According to a 2014 Consumer Reports article, "Establishing a good relationship with a pharmacist you trust is the No. 1 reason to choose a drugstore." As Lucinda Maine, CEO and executive vice president of the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, stated, “You can and should expect your pharmacist to be both accessible and knowledgeable; if he or she is not, then you should take your business elsewhere.”

I live in a mid-sized town on the west coast, and there are at least 12 pharmacies within 5 miles of my home. Other than convenience, how is a patient supposed to know which pharmacy will best suit his or her specific medication and education needs?

Plan an afternoon where you will be able to visit at least 4 local pharmacies, and make sure to include an independent pharmacy, supermarket, chain, and big-box retail pharmacy in your list. As you walk into the store and head toward the pharmacy counter, stand back and watch how the employees are working for 5 or 10 minutes. Do any of the pharmacy employees acknowledge you standing near the pharmacy and ask whether they may help you?

While watching the pharmacy, do the pharmacists appear to have enough time to do the work in front of them, or do they appear stressed and hurried? Is there a well-defined and reasonably private patient counseling area where you see the pharmacist visiting with patients? Are the clerks at the front counter pleasant with the customers, and importantly, do the pharmacists have technicians behind the counter to assist them in their work flow?

After you have watched the flow of the pharmacy, step up to the pharmacy counter. Take a moment with the clerk to discuss the store's hours and assure your insurance is accepted. Next, ask to speak with the pharmacist. 

When the pharmacist meets you in the counseling area, explain to them you are considering transferring prescriptions to their store and would like to know what types of services they offer.  You will clearly see each pharmacy has a different personality and atmosphere.

After visiting 4 pharmacies and interviewing the pharmacists, the choice of which community pharmacy will be best for you and your family will be clear.