The Future of Community Pharmacy Practice at Walgreens
You've probably seen the commercial where a Walgreens pharmacist is jumping over barriers to help customers. You probably wondered what Walgreens was up to and are they really serious about encouraging pharmacists to step from behind the counter to interact with patients. I was curious about pharmacy practice at Walgreens and this weekend I saw what I believe is where pharmacy should have been 20 years ago.
I was in Georgetown, Texas visiting family recently when I happened to visit a Walgreens pharmacy (5317 Williams Drive) to buy some items. From the outside the building looked new so I had already surmised that this was a new Walgreens. What I did not realize was that this was the "NEW" Walgreens that the Walgreens commercials had alluded to. At first it did not feel or look like a pharmacy store. I scanned the aisles quickly to confirm I had not walked into the wrong building. This sleek establishment was indeed a pharmacy. The pharmacy section was easily identified by the large PHARMACY sign on the far wall with a green cross next to it. A few feet across the wall the next sign announced immunizations advice + information. My purchase did not require a conversation with the pharmacist but I had to know and learn more about this new pharmacy look.
Propelled by my curiosity and thirst to learn more I advanced towards the pharmacy. As I walked towards the pharmacy I saw a display that read "Welcome to Well at Walgreens." The display also mentioned pharmacy professional team, education, and answers. I quickened my pace since my curiosity had peeked. When I reached the pharmacy counter or rather the pharmacy desk I could not hide my excitement. The tall counter barrier, typical of most pharmacies, that psychologically prevents pharmacist patient interactions was replaced with a sleek desk with attractive computer stations. The long desk also had a section where a pharmacist would sit and interact with patients without a barrier separating them. The caption on the display behind the pharmacist desk included the phrase "Just ask. Your Walgreens pharmacist is in."
As I looked around, Dr. Angela Williams (the pharmacist) asked if she could help me. I praised the new pharmacy design and she stepped out of the pharmacy to explain the design and concept. She explained that this is the new Walgreens design and all the stores will be renovated using this design. The changes started in Chicago, then Arizona and other areas of the country will follow. She showed me the private immunization and counseling rooms, explained that the dispensing and storage of medications takes place behind a row of tall cabinets and is not visible to customers (I had noticed that I could only see a few over-the counter-medications and no medication shelves). One issue that has always disturbed me about the design of community pharmacies is lack of privacy when patients are receiving counseling or even dropping off and picking up prescriptions. Who wants counseling when everyone can hear the conversation. Does the design of most pharmacies affect patient care? Is it a violation of HIPPA privacy laws? In my opinion the transaction between a pharmacist and patient should be completely private, similar to a visit to the doctor’s office. I hope this is the direction for pharmacies of the future. Dr. Williams also showed me a screen where those hard of hearing could see when their medication was ready. I had many other questions but she had to attend to customers and I had to buy my item and complete my errands.
As l left Walgreens I felt satisfied that community pharmacy was moving in the right direction, at least at Walgreens. Off course buildings and sleek computers do not provide pharmacy care, pharmacists do. However, the practice environment has to be conducive for providing care and it all starts with the right mindset and corporate support. What I saw and felt at this Walgreens was a center for care and wellness. Not just a place to buy prescriptions and other goods. This was the type of pharmacy set up I imagined many years ago after graduating from pharmacy school. It has taken a while for community pharmacy to embrace patient care at the corporate level. At least at Walgreens pharmacy practice seems to be heading in the right direction and the future looks great. Well done Walgreens, keep advancing pharmacy practice and I hope other pharmacies will follow this model.
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