For some people, a trip to the pharmacy is a dreaded experience. It is certain to include long lines, time spent waiting, insurance headaches, and rubbing elbows with sick people. No fun! Today I am going to show you a few ways to make your life easier at the pharmacy. Hopefully, after reading this, you will be able to take some of the pain out of your pharmacy visit.
1. Don’t wait
This is the easiest way to make your life easier at the pharmacy. There is no reason that you have to wait there in the waiting area while the pharmacist fills your prescription. I know you might feel bad or be in pain. It is harder to be patient in those scenarios but it is still possible to decrease time spent in the waiting room. One easy way is to drop off the prescription and tell them you will be back at a specific time. Being specific will improve your chances of your medication being ready when you return. You can drop off, shop, and then return. This works well in a grocery store or mass merchandiser. You may also have your doctor send the prescription in before you leave the office.
2. Call refills in the day before
When you notice that you are within a few days of needing a refill, go ahead and call it in. Don’t wait until you are out and then bring the empty bottle to me. Call it in, pick it up a day or two later. There is simply no reason to wait while we prepare a refill for you. That is not convenient for you, or for us. This is also a great way to avoid the dreaded “out of stock”. We use a “just in time” inventory model. Unfortunately, it frequently ends up being “not quite in time”.
3. Call ahead
It is very frustrating to you (and to us) when you show up and your prescription has not been filled yet. A quick phone call can at least let you know that it is ready. It won’t guarantee you don’t have to wait in line, but half the battle will be won at that point. If your doctor sent it in and you need it right away, let them know. “Hey, my doctor just sent my prescription in. Please check that you received it and I wanted to let you know that I am on my way to pick it up.” This will definitely get you moved up on the priority list. This will also give the staff a good opportunity to warn you of an out of stock or insurance problem ahead of time.
4. Pay attention to details
Does your prescription have refills remaining? Is it expired? In each case, your doctor might need to be called, which will probably delay your refill by a day or two. If you know this, you can plan ahead and request your refill before you run out of medication. Make sure to let your pharmacy know when you have new insurance, have a new address, or discontinue a medication.
5. Stock up
You should always try to keep about a 2 week reserve supply on hand for the medications you take every day. This can be accomplished by picking up your refills a few days early over a span of a few months. Your insurance company will usually allow you to refill within about a 5 day window of when you should run out of medicine. This will prevent headaches when you travel, during drug back orders, or if an unexpected life event happens.
6. Get a 90 day supply
If you know you will be taking your medication for an extended period of time, request a 90 day supply. This will turn 3 trips to the pharmacy into 1 trip, making it easier on everyone involved. Most insurance companies will cover 90 days at the pharmacy. If not, there are often discount cards you can use that will be as good, or better than your insurance for common medications. Your pharmacy can usually provide you with a discount card if you ask them.
7. Be nice
Trust me on this one. The staff at your pharmacy does notice who treats them well and who doesn’t. If you are nice to the staff they will remember you, and are likely to take extra care that your requests are met. Getting mad or being rude will get you nowhere. Here is a more in-depth article about getting to know your pharmacist, and why that might be helpful to you. Please also remember that there are a lot of things that can be frustrating, but are out of our control. This includes your co-pay, insurance coverage, or whether or not your doctor’s office called in your prescription on time, or correctly. Frustration is understandable, but please don’t get mad at your pharmacy for these things.
8. Pick up your meds on time
If your pharmacy notifies you that something is ready, go get it. Most pharmacies have an auto-fill program for chronic medications. They will call or text you when something is ready. Insurance companies require us to return medications to stock if they aren’t picked up within a week. If you wait too long to pick up, then your medication may not be available any more and will need to be re-done. Additionally, if you are overstocked or out of town just let the pharmacy know, “I don’t need this right now but can you fill it on the 10th instead?”
9. Use manufacturer discount cards to save money
Spending too much money on medications is another inconvenience you may face at the pharmacy. If you are taking a brand name drug, or would prefer not to use the generic, the brand name manufacturers are usually quite happy to assist you in paying for it. Here is an easy guide to using manufacturer discount cards. This doesn’t work for everyone, but it can really be a blessing if you are able to use a discount card. Some customers save hundreds of dollars every month with these cards.
10. Go at off-peak times or days
Showing up at the correct time can really keep the time waiting in line to a minimum. The 4pm to 6pm after work crowd can be substantial. Expect to wait longer if you go to the pharmacy at that time. Lunchtime is also a time when activity picks up at the pharmacy. Avoid these windows, and you are likely to face shorter wait times. Mornings before 11am and evenings after 6pm (but not 5 minutes before close) are good times to target. Weekends are also usually less busy. Avoid Mondays if you can. Monday is by far our busiest day.
11. Know what you are picking up
Unlike other items in the store, prescription medications are not returnable. We don’t do exchanges, we don’t do refunds, and we certainly are not going to re-use medication that had already been home with you. When you are at the pick-up window please look at each medication. Be sure you need everything that you are getting. If you are picking up for someone else, ask them how many medications they have and what they are. If you are unsure, or have a question (I am talking to you husbands), please resolve your question before you buy it. Once you take it home, it will be too late.
12. Pick a pharmacy that you like
Going to the pharmacy doesn’t have to be a pain. If it is usually a pain for you, then maybe you should consider finding a pharmacy that fits you better. Keep in mind that the closest one isn’t always the best one. Convenience is great, but don’t make yourself miserable just to save 3 minutes driving time to the next pharmacy. Here is a more detailed article on how to find a new pharmacy if you are in need of one.
If you have other tips that I have missed, please share in the comments below. I would love to hear from you. Hopefully following these few steps will help make your life easier at the pharmacy.