Walgreens’ attempts to revolutionize the pharmacy may increase risks of medication errors and patient privacy violations, according to a new study by Change to Win Retail Initiatives (CtW). The report titled Behind the Desk uses data from 100 observations of Walgreens’ “Well Experience” pharmacy model in 50 stores located in Florida, Illinois, and Indiana. Since the report’s release in September 2013, the model has faced scrutiny from state regulators, legislators and advocacy organizations.
CtW’s investigation details significant problems with Well Experience, including:
- Violations of patient privacy. In 80 percent of stores visited, sensitive, HIPAA-protected patient information, such as medical histories, was left unattended and visible to customers in the pharmacy area.
- Inadequate medication security. Prescription medicine—in one case hydrocodone—was left unattended and within the reach of customers in 46 percent of stores visited.
- Increased pharmacist distractions. Field researchers observed nearly 150 distractions and interruptions to pharmacists that were unique to the Well Experience pharmacy model’s design —over one third of the total number observed. Interruptions and distractions are associated with increased medication errors.
- Low rates of patient counseling. Field researchers observed an average consultation rate of 8.2 percent in surveyed Well Experience pharmacies, despite Walgreens’ claims that the model increases counseling. Academic studies of chain pharmacies using secret shoppers found rates of 27 to 53 percent, Pharmacists are required by law to offer counseling for new prescriptions.
A key feature of Well Experience is the pharmacist sits in a work station in front of the pharmacy counter, and is typically not in the traditional prescription fill area. This relocates the pharmacist’s work station from a private space in the pharmacy to a public space. The out-in-front pharmacist remotely monitors the pharmacy technicians and checks the accuracy of prescriptions using photos and video displayed on a computer screen.
Read the full report here.
Did you get your flu shot? Now may be the best time, as we head into peak of both the holiday and flu seasons. Retail pharmacies are a convenient place to get vaccinated, but a new study shows that Walgreens isn’t always giving accurate information to customers seeking the shot.
The investigation, conducted by Change to Win Retail Initiatives (CtW), found thatWalgreens employees gave inaccurate information about flu shot coverage in 48 percent of store visits across New York City and Los Angeles. Walgreens representatives refused to check whether an insurance plan was covered in 40 percent of those instances—claiming to know if the flu shot was covered or not— and were wrong more than half the time.
CtW researchers found an out-of-pocket average rate of $32.00 per shot at Walgreens, and drugstores could be profiting from this confusion as insurance reimbursements for the vaccinations are reported to be lower. This isn’t the first time Walgreens has been accused of misinforming customers about their flu shot coverage. Last year, the company entered into a settlement with NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman after sticking thousands of NY state employees with a bill for the shot after wrongly advertising it was free with their insurance.
Flu shots are vital for public health. On average, there are more than 200,000 flu-related hospitalizations each year—along with thousands of deaths associated with the illness—and cost is one common reason people give for not being vaccinated.
Learn more about the survey and some tips on getting the right price here.