Do You See What your Patients See When They Visit your Pharmacy?

look at your pharmacy through new eyes

“We’re a pharmacy in a 1930s grocery store that has been a drugstore for a long time, but hasn’t seen any serious updating since the 1970s,” explains managing partner Glen Booker.

The location, north of the city’s downtown on 33rd Street West, serves a walk-in clientele and a growing methadone business, and fulfills a contract for the Athabasca Health Authority. On some days before the renos, the single intake line for methadone and regular prescriptions stretched back through the store and out the front door. In the dispensary, staff were crammed for space, and operational efficiency was suffering.

So, with the help of Wayne Caverly of Caverly Consulting, the store launched an extensive overhaul two years ago to meet the needs of its customers and their pharmacy team. And, more importantly, both Caverly and Booker looked at the changes from the perspective of the customers and patients.

“It’s a challenge for pharmacy staff to see their pharmacy as the patient sees it,” Caverly says. That’s where I come in, as I see the store with fresh eyes and am able to compare it to thousands of other pharmacies I’ve visited over the years.”
In this particular situation, he says the main issue that drove the design was the very large methadone business. To complete the work while minimizing disruption to day-to-day services, the construction team built a temporary dispensary in front of the existing counter, with the new one installed behind it.

Go with the flow

They then built two reception areas – one for prescriptions and the other for what they call Specialty Services. “It gave the methadone patients a sense of privacy while streamlining services for our clients getting other prescriptions filled,” Booker says.

The new, better flow includes:

  • Two contact points for methadone patients – one for receiving them and one for dispensing methadone and watching patients drink it.
  • Greater separation and reduced interaction between methadone and non-methadone patients.
  • The ability to serve two methadone patients at the same time, if necessary.

Counters were lowered to improve visibility – for customers and staff. The team added a patient seating area with six comfortable chairs to the open space in front of the dispensary and a couple more along the side. “Having that seating area enables more of a social interaction, and helps patients feel they’re not waiting as long,” Booker says. “They might not realize it took 15 minutes for their prescription because the time goes more quickly.”

Flooring and lighting were replaced throughout the store, along with new paint and signage, making the space brighter and more inviting. Shelving units were brought down to eye level. “No more stack it high and sell it,” Booker says. “We wanted to draw people to the back of the store, and make sure there are good sightlines so the store would be open and approachable.”
A semi-private counselling area was added off to the side, and there’s also a clinic, which is leased out to the Saskatoon Health District with methadone physicians, counsellors, and a psychiatric nurse. “It’s all part of our approach about putting the patient experience first,” Booker says. “The renovation may have added a few more travel steps for the pharmacists, but it means that patients aren’t leaning over each other quite as much. It has made a difference.”

By approaching the renovation and service delivery from the patient’s perspective, Booker says the pharmacy is now more connected to those they serve. “We get to know their families, their lives, and their challenges. We talk with them, celebrate their victories in life, and try to give them confidence.”

Since the renovation, business has improved so much that the Rubicon Group, owners of the store, are now looking at another expansion of the lab. They’ll do it by taking eight or 12 feet from the front of store.

“When we started the expansion, we had three pharmacists and one technician,” Booker says. “We are now up to five pharmacists, one technician, two assistants and a pharmacy student on staff. Customers tell us they really like what we’ve done, and we’re very pleased with the difference it has made for us operationally.”

Top takeaways

  • When you enter your pharmacy, watch and listen as if you were a patient. What do you see and hear? Take notes as you “tour” the aisles and share them with your staff in creating a more customer-centric experience.
  • Do you see barriers to services and products? If so, what can be done to improve access?
  • Pay attention to sightlines, positioning of displays, and where your important services are located in your store.
  • Ensure that staff can see customers – and customers can see employees.
  • Engage your staff in making changes. Your employees can be your eyes and ears, so encourage suggestions and reward ideas that result in positive changes.
  • Always be open to change, what you do and how you do it. The way you’ve always done it isn’t necessarily the best way