Navigating Drive-Through Window Pharmacy Services

People feel self-rewarded when they use time efficiently. To save time, drive-through banking, fast food, beverage depots, pharmacy, and cleaning services are taken for granted as a way of life. Wait a second? Drive-through windows for pharmacy services; is that a good choice? Drive-through pharmacy services are primarily about convenience and access. Understandably, when traveling with a car-load of small children; why venture into the pharmacy when everything gets done without leaving the vehicle. Or, if it’s a rainy rain, a bad hair day, a sloppy dress day, or a sick day; pick up the medication at the window – mission accomplished. For people with limited mobility, the drive-through window provides easy access.

Although people wish to get their medication as quickly as possible, regardless of whether they are in the store or at the drive-through window, pharmacists may not have time to get to the drive- through window to answer questions and provide advice about medication use. In addition, access to drug and insurance information from this area may be limited. As medications are likely stored near the main counter and not near the drive-through window, problems can arise in workflow; creating additional challenges for pharmacists to take care of people at the counter and people at the drive-through window.

Oftentimes, information for customers at the drive-through window has to be relayed from the pharmacist to the customer through pharmacy staff members. An indirect communication process suggests a greater risk for miscommunication, which can lead to delays in prescription processing.

Another issue with drive-through window pharmacies is the ever looming topic of dispensing errors. Do more dispensing errors occur in pharmacies with drive-through windows? While pharmacists perceive that pharmacies with drive-through windows contribute to dispensing errors and increase the risk for errors, there is no direct evidence to support these perceptions.

To answer this question, a careful examination of pharmacy incidence reports is required. Incidence reports are filled out each time a dispensing error occurs in the pharmacy. Errors can be attributed to the wrong drug, wrong dose, wrong quantity dispensed, and wrong directions. From the content of these reports, it would be possible to compare the number of dispensing errors that occurred before and after the pharmacy drive-through window was added. The problem; however, is getting the data.

In addition to these concerns, the thought of having to wait for a pharmacist to get to the drive-through window may be frustrating for some and, ultimately, defeats the purpose of going to the drive-through window in the first place. Not to mention the insurance issues, they can increase the wait time to what seems like eternity! If that’s the case, discussing insurance issues directly with the pharmacist while waiting in a comfortable store sounds better than being engulfed by exhaust fumes.

When viewed in commercials, pharmacists are positioned behind the counter giving out important advice about proper medication use and answering health-related questions. From commercials and other sources, it appears that pharmacists do their best professional work over-the-counter; not hanging around a drive-through window yelling out to people about medication use or skating toward a vehicle to deliver medications.

The bottom line, drive-through windows for pharmacy services should be off-limits to pharmacists. If people want to discuss their medications with a pharmacist, select the most effective medications, or deal with medical and insurance issues; they should come inside the store or call the pharmacy to discuss these issues directly with the pharmacist. Or, schedule a time when the pharmacist can return a call for an on-line consultation.