If your pharmacy ever seemed eager to get you out the door, you may not be alone. USA Today found that drug chains Walgreens and CVS, which fill a third of all prescriptions nationwide, both have company policies that seem to stress speed of service.
For example, Walgreens' budget guidelines say that their pharmacists might have as little as two minutes to verify a drug name, dosage, and instructions. The time limit on pharmacist-patient interaction greatly hinders open communication, leading to increased wrong medication lawsuits.
Walgreens rejected the implication that they value speed more than patient safety. "We have never dictated the time a pharmacist spends on a prescription," a company representative said. "Pharmacists are licensed professionals; we expect them to exercise good professional judgment."
CVS says it used to base pharmacist bonuses on how well company timing standards were met. The chain issued three corporate goals: no more than a 15-minute wait for patients waiting in-store, filling prescriptions on time, and answering phones within 20 seconds. Michael Cohen, president of the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, says the policies were structured in a way that put pressure on pharmacists, and that they would be "incentivized … or disincentivized" if the goals weren't met.
The incentives were revealed in a 2005 Massachusetts Board of Pharmacy investigation, which verified 62 of 80 medication error complaints in CVS stores. The ISMP ultimately recommended that CVS reevaluate its incentive program, as it "creates pressures that place speed above safety".
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