Monday, 29 July 2013

Waiting time

Today I did some grocery shopping.

Significant? No.

Illuminating? Yes, somewhat oddly.

It was a Sunday, there were queues, big queues. Their busiest day of the week, constant all day according to the checkout operator. And people were queuing patiently, even considerately. I had a very friendly conversation with a gent about which line he was in (it was unclear, I think deliberately, but he was gentlemanly enough to make a choice between the lines when I queried). Why am I disturbed?

Let us compare.

Supermarket- people are purchasing groceries. There is no advice, not really any additional services; the customers walk around a large room divided into aisles and select the food, cleaning products and random toiletries that they will consume (in one way or another). If you require assistance to find something and are lucky enough to meet a staff member that responds to “excuse me” instead of ignoring you to carry on with their shelf-packing, they will point or maybe take you to the product but rarely can discuss the pros and cons (indeed they would be freaked out if you initiated that conversation). When you get to the checkout you sigh if there is a queue and settle into the Women's Health mag that is waiting while your checkout operator scans away.

Pharmacy- people are purchasing healthcare, or indeed accessing free healthcare. How often have you gone to a Pharmacy to ask about your sore back/eye/tummy and received medication and free advice from the Pharmacist? Doctors are hard to get into and they can be expensive now that many don't bulk-bill (sure you get it back from Medicare but you are usually still $30 out of pocket). In the majority of Pharmacies, if you ask for something you will be taken to it and given FREE advice. If you ask to speak to the Pharmacist, this person with 5 years of full-time professional education and many years post-graduate experience will come and talk to you, without needing to make an appointment, for free. I can't think of any other profession that does that.

So you get a pretty sweet deal in a Pharmacy yeah? Yet people will patiently queue in a supermarket for quite a long time. In a Pharmacy, if you tell someone their script will be 15 minutes there is a large percentage that ask, in a very rude tone “Why?” Followed by “How long does it take to stick a label on a box?”. Five years of full-time education and your job is reduced to this.... yes I am about to rant.

The Reason Your Prescription Takes So Long To Fill

12:01 You enter the Pharmacy with your prescription and hand it in and if you are a bit of a prick you ask the above questions. The staff member puts your prescription in a basket and adds it to the line of prescriptions waiting to be done, informing you the wait time is about 15 minutes. There is only one prescription ahead of yours, you think '15 minutes to do one prescription?' huff angrily and proceed to stand there and glare at the Pharmacist. That is sure to make her go faster.

Meanwhile the Pharmacist probably doesn't notice your glare because she is half-way through a prescription of 12 items. For each item, as she types the details into the computer she checks the prescription against the original doctor's copy to make sure there hasn't been an error made by the previous Pharmacy. She then checks whether the patient has had it before, checks all the other medications to make sure there isn't a drug or disease interaction (a disease interaction is where the drug might make worse an underlying condition eg anti-inflammatories with a stomach ulcer). The label is printed, she walks to the shelf, selects the product and then checks everything all over again. This is then done for the next 5 items on that prescription and the 3 items on the script you can see is before yours. Then the phone rings and it is a doctor from the local hospital requesting a medication history for one of the elderly patients. Doctors don't have a lot of spare time and this patient needs treatment so the Pharmacist accesses their medication history and discusses it with the doctor. By now 4 more people are waiting for scripts and the people owning them are also glaring at the Pharmacist. She notices this and feels stressed (which doesn't help her go faster). Now for your script. The doctor has not written all the details correctly to make it legal. The Pharmacist calls the doctor's receptionist and is put on hold, then answered and put on hold again, then answered and given the information she needs. Simultaneously the Pharmacy assistants are asking the Pharmacist questions to treat people who have come in for their free advice. Finally your prescription is ready. The Pharmacy assistant brings it to you and asks if you have any questions for the Pharmacist (the Pharmacy assistant does not need to ask you if you have had it before because the Pharmacist has already checked this). You reply “No” adding that you are in a hurry. You see the Pharmacist finish the script after yours and come to talk to a patient. You complete your sale and are just about to leave when you realise you need a printout for your tax. The Pharmacy assistant says that the Pharmacist will do it as soon as she can. Within 2 minutes the Pharmacist is back behind the computer, completing the script she had half-done when the other customer required counselling. She then prints the information you require. As you leave the Pharmacy you look at your watch, 12:19. You go and have a coffee and sit down for the rest of your lunch break. The Pharmacist continues to do 5 things at once until 3:03pm when she nukes her food in the microwave, has a bite and then finishes the rest at 3:37 after referring a patient to the Dr with shingles, doing 10 more prescriptions, counselling a patient on new medication and doing a pee that she has been dying for since 11:59.

Can you see why I feel strongly about this?

1 comment:

  1. This was very well said! I would have commented previously, but I was a but too lazy to type in my google password.


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