Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Prescription Conniption!

Years ago, my first job was working at a drug store some distance from my home. My job consisted of stocking shelves, ordering stock, and waiting on customers. There were times when I would assist the pharmacist when he was filling prescriptions. He would read the "'script", find the medicine called for, and then count out the pills and put them in a container. Lastly, he would type up the label on an old typewriter, affix the label to the container, and either call the customer to pick the prescription up, or have me deliver it. In all, the entire process took roughly 5 minutes, from start to finish. These were the days before computers, where everything was done by hand. The store kept a good stock of medicine, and at the time, there were few new treatments available. Everything was tried and true, and was dispensed quickly and efficiently.

Fast forward to 2011. I recently had to obtain a prescription from our local WalMart pharmacy. We have our prescription coverage card on file there, so we usually use them. I handed the "'script" to the clerk, and was told there would be a half hour wait. I thought that wasn't too bad, owing to the fact that is was approaching a weekend, and people needed their medicine before going off traveling or whatever. Seconds before I left the counter, the clerk told me I could "shop until it was time to pick up my medicine". I left, as I really did have a few things to pick up, and returned about 30 minutes later. There were a number of people in line by that time, waiting for their medicines. Nothing seemed to be happening, until an employee came out to check on who was waiting (I swear she had a name tag like "Crayola" or something!). Eventually, I got the medicine and checked out. The entire process had taken closer to 45 minutes. Still, I had obtained what I needed, and was glad to be headed home.

A few days later, I once again had to pick up medicine at WalMart. When I arrived, there was no one waiting, no one ahead of me. I figured that it would be a quick and painless trip. Was I ever wrong! I was told it would be 45 minutes to an hour before my pills would be ready. Once again, I was told I could shop until it was time to pick them up. After 40 minutes, I headed back to the counter, only to be told that the pills weren't ready yet, and I could shop until they were. Was this a joke? If I left the store to shop somewhere else would I be punished? I returned to the bench in front of the pharmacy to wait, while I watched "The People of WalMart" parade by. Finally, after over an hour, my pills were ready to pick up.

As I was sitting there on the hard steel bench, my mind wandered back to the days of old, before computer efficiency, when a single pharmacist could fill multiple prescriptions in short order, and do it correctly to boot! What has happened? Is the world slowing down as we age faster, or has technology thrown a roadblock in the path of progress?

Yes, there seems to be a bit more to filling a prescription these days, but hell it's still just counting pills. How hard can that be? Is it all about serving the customers, or milking them for every last cent? You've got to wonder........!