Behind the Desk: Increased Risks to Patient Privacy and Public Health

A new report finds that Walgreen’s attempts to “revolutionize” the pharmacy may pose risks to patient privacy, medication accuracy and drug security. The pharmacy model, named “Well Experience,” relocates the pharmacist’s work station from a private space in  the traditional prescription fill area 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.  Researchers made 100 visits to 50 Well Experience stores in Florida, Illinois and Indiana, to observe the model.

CtW’s investigation found significant problems with Well Experience, including:

    • Increased pharmacist distractions.  Field researchers observed nearly 150 distractions and interruptions to pharmacists—over one third of the number observed—that were unique to the Well Experience pharmacy model’s design. Interruptions and distractions are associated with increased medication dispensing errors.
    • Violations of patient privacy.  In 80 percent of stores visited, sensitive, HIPAA-protected patient information, such as medical histories, was left unattended on or near the pharmacist’s desk 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.
    • Low rates of patient counseling.  Field researchers observed a consultation rate of 8.2 percent in 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.

Check out the full report here.