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It’s a world of technology and accessibility. With online shopping, fast shipping, and one-click purchases available at our fingertips, it’s clear why people may want that same convenience with their healthcare. But is the most convenient option really the most beneficial? What many don’t know is that their local pharmacy offers that same great convenience but with quality care to back it up.
Your medications are personal – and having your prescriptions filled from a warehouse across the country by strangers is the opposite of personal. Choosing the right pharmacy for you and your family is as important as choosing the right doctor, and you should trust your health to someone who gets to know you.
Why is picking a pharmacy so important?
Many people put a lot of thought into picking a doctor – they look around, ask around, and sometimes change their minds after visiting. But research shows that the average person sees their pharmacist 7 to 10 times more often than they see their doctor, so it’s even more important to put the same level of thought into picking the right pharmacist. When choosing a pharmacist and pharmacy, look for a pharmacy that can fulfill all your healthcare needs, not just filling one prescription. Using multiple pharmacies to fill different prescriptions can mean that no one pharmacy knows everything that you are needing, and still may not account for over-the-counter medications you are taking as well. This can lead to negative drug interactions or side effects because the pharmacy team doesn’t have the full picture.
Finding the right pharmacy for you does not need to be a long or difficult process. A good place to start is by asking yourself some basic questions:
- Does your pharmacist take the time to talk with you about your medications and answer your questions?
- Does your pharmacy team offer a variety of health and wellness services such as immunizations, diabetes management, asthma control, or other health-related offerings?
- Does the pharmacy team seem genuinely interested in you and your family’s health care needs?
- Does your pharmacy offer recommendations on over-the-counter products and inform you which ones NOT to take with your prescription?
Why should I choose an independent pharmacy?
There are a lot of options out there for getting your prescriptions filled, and many offer delivery now. But not all convenient services are created equal – that’s why you should go with a local team that you can trust with delivering the medications you need.
An independent pharmacy can offer more than the convenient refills, though they can do that, too! Community pharmacies can bring you peace of mind that not only are you getting a medication, you’re getting the right one, at the right time – all from people you trust to know what you need.
Along with prescription peace of mind, your community pharmacist will often:
- provide medication reviews and counseling
- educate on a number of health conditions
- monitor health goals and offer wellness solutions
- communicate needed refills — and also communicate when they may not be needed anymore
- administer immunizations, including flu and COVID-19
The list of services offered at a local independent pharmacy is continually growing and evolving to best serve our communities. Pharmacists work closely with local prescribers to ensure our patients have all the information and guidance needed to live a long and healthy life. Take advantage of the numerous ways your independent pharmacy can help. The National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) conducted a census of community pharmacists in the United States, and they reported that in 2021: ¹
- 88% consider themselves full-line pharmacies
- 92% provide wound care
- 91% provide medication synchronization
- 77% offer compliance packaging
- 87% administer flu shots
- 70% offer delivery
It is not always about the fastest option or the most convenient one. Your health and that of your family is too important to settle for just convenience. When you choose an independent pharmacy, you will experience more than fast and easy.
Why should I pick an independent instead of mail order?
The convenience of getting your medications delivered in the mail may seem like a perk, but there are some significant risks associated with it. Your prescription could be lost or never arrive. You could the wrong amount – or the wrong drug entirely. According to the 2021 NCPA Digest, ¹
- 60% of community pharmacists reported that patients had mail order medication left outside rather than being delivered to the patient directly. Medications can lose their effectiveness when left in too hot or too cold of temperatures.
- 44% reported patients getting the wrong amount of a drug.
- 26% said patients received the wrong medicine.
- 25% reported patients’ medication going to the wrong address.
- 98% have had patients that received the delivery late or never received their medication at all.
An article from Consumer Action for a Strong Economy (CAS) states, “While mailing a prescription may sound routine, most patients forced to wait for these services are those with complex or life-threatening conditions such as cancer. Delaying these treatments can have serious repercussions for these patients’ health and potentially lessens their outlook.” ² Before opting in to receiving your medications via mail order, compare the perceived convenience to the benefits of working with a local pharmacy.
One-on-one medication counseling
When using mail-order services, there is no way of knowing who is filling your prescription from month to month. It may not even be a pharmacist filling it. The lack of two-way communication puts you at higher risk because they may not be aware of changes in your health or any medication side affects you may be experiencing. Your pharmacist should help you feel comfortable asking questions about your health and can offer a faster response to your medication needs.
Mail order pharmacies are only able to provide the medications themselves. Local pharmacies offer a variety of complementary services to address your whole health. Providing recommendations on supplements, access to a pharmacist who can answer any questions or issues that may arise, and regular follow-ups to ensure you get the quality care you deserve.
When receiving your medications in the mail, you are accepting multiple risks that are completely out of your control. What happens if your doctor forgets to send in your prescription or refills for a few days? Now, not only do you not have your medications, but you will also have to wait days or maybe even weeks for them to arrive. Alternatively, mail order companies may have outdated information and automatically send you refills for medications you no longer need. Now you have a large supply of medications on-hand, increasing your risk of taking the wrong medication.
Why should I pick an independent instead of a chain pharmacy?
Often people list convenience as the number one reason they choose a chain over an independent pharmacy. Whether it is their hours of operation or a larger selection of products, the flexibility they offer is just about the only benefit they provide compared to independent pharmacies. According to a 2018 Consumer Reports’ survey, “Independent pharmacies earned high scores on such measures as courtesy, helpfulness, and speed of checkout and filling prescriptions, as well as pharmacists’ knowledge and accuracy. At the bottom, large national chain pharmacies.” ³
Let’s review some of the myths and misconceptions about independent pharmacies compared to chain pharmacies.
Myth: Independent pharmacies are more expensive.
According to that same Consumer Reports’ survey, independent pharmacies do better than big chain drugstores with regards to cost. Members who went to independent pharmacies were also more likely to report that the pharmacist suggested a lower-cost drug—21 percent—while only nine percent reported chain pharmacists offering them a lower-price option. Worse, national chains tended to have some of the highest out-of-pocket prices. While prices at independents fell in the middle, CR members said they found the lowest prices at Costco. CR secret shoppers found that some independent and grocery store pharmacies can offer even lower prices than Costco—you will just need to call around in your area and ask for their “cash” or retail price. ³
Myth: Independent pharmacies do not have what I need.
Overall, 21 percent of Consumer Reports members reported that a drug they needed was out of stock in the past year. As a group, independents were more likely than other types of pharmacies to fill the prescription later that same day or the next. Members who used an independent pharmacist were also more likely to say that the pharmacy went out of its way to fill prescriptions faster; 41 percent of people said that happened at independent pharmacies compared to just 20 percent at pharmacy chains. ³
Myth: Independent pharmacies do not accept my insurance.
Every year, independent pharmacies must combat the misconception that, because they are small, they do not accept most insurance. Larger insurance companies, many of which own pharmacies themselves, spend a lot of time and money each year telling patients that they are required to use certain pharmacies to fill their prescriptions. Oftentimes, you can use a local pharmacy, you just do not know it. Before taking the word of your insurance provider, call your local pharmacy to see what your copay is.
Your pharmacist may be the health professional you see most often and talk with about your health. It’s important to take advantage of the many ways your pharmacist can help you manage your health and medications. Pharmacists work closely with your doctor or nurse to give you expert information and guidance about your health and any conditions you may have. All this information & all these services are available at your local pharmacy… now that sounds like convenience! As a member of the local independent pharmacy community, we are your trusted medication experts – and we look forward to serving you and your family.
¹ 2021 NCPA Digest, sponsored by Cardinal Health