Listening to my radio on the way to the grocery store, I heard an advertisement for flu shots being given at one of the local pharmacy clinics. The ad talked about the importance of getting the seasonal flu shot and described who should get the H1N1 flu shot. The hours were listed, and a special point was made of how the shots, and clinic, were available every day. At first I thought how convenient it would be not to have to make a doctor’s appointment and be able to go in on the weekend. Then I started wondering about how my regular doctor would get records from this clinic and who would be providing the shots, or any medical advice, were I to go in for another reason.
I’ve used an independently owned pharmacy for years now and really enjoy my pharmacist knowing all the medications the family has used, or is using, as well as our reactions to various medications. He knows the over the counter medications we routinely take and always asks how everyone is doing. My pharmacy doesn’t have a clinic and isn’t offering flu shots this year. This works well for me, and I will be getting my flu shot from my doctor, when I get around to making an appointment. I asked my pharmacist what he thought about the clinics, competition notwithstanding, and he said they were probably good for some people who didn’t have much time for visits during regular office hours or those who needed a less expensive option than a hospital or doctor’s office. He really is a nice guy.
I’ve decided I pretty much agree. It is a good option to have, but what about customers who are going to pick up their monthly cholesterol or thyroid medications? Granted, a pharmacy has sick people in it getting medications to make them better, but it isn’t filled with those people who are waiting trying to see a doctor, or nurse practitioners, before waiting for the medications. Yes, many of the clinics have a smaller waiting area, but the overflow still flows into the pharmacy.
For the pharmacist, I can definitely see the advantages. If there is a problem with the prescription, such as illegibility or a question about dosage, the pharmacist simply has to walk around the counter to get an answer, as opposed to having to wait for a call back. Likewise, doctors can check with the pharmacist to make sure a medication is in stock before writing the prescription. Ultimately, as the role of the pharmacy expands into a cheaper and quicker nonemergency medical facility, the pharmacist will face a new role as well. I think only time will tell if this is best for the doctors, patients, and pharmacists.