I recently read an article titled "Why January is the cruelest month for pharmacists". The article focused on insurance deductibles resetting which results in upset customers (because of the higher cost they are paying); workflow is often interrupted while the pharmacy staff are fixing the insurance issues or calling the insurance company and this may lead to longer wait times. Overall, the result is a stressed out pharmacist/pharmacy tech and an unhappy customer experience.

Is there anything we as pharmacists can do about the insurance deductibles? No, not really; but we can do our best to proactively navigate the changes and manage the expectations of our customers. How? Are all customers unreasonable? No; consumers in general are getting more educated. Sometimes their education is a little flawed, but I digress. How can we navigate the madness a little better this month? 

Just expect that there will be a few extra hiccups this month, take a deep breath and get the work done.

Give a little more time
One way to manage the expectations of your customers is when it comes to wait times. If you are busy, tack on an extra five minutes to what you would usually quote. You may very likely have to deal with an insurance rejection. 

A customer will likely be upset if you quote 15 minutes and it takes 20 minutes; they will be less likely to be upset if you quote them 25 minutes and it takes 20 minutes.

Better yet, run the prescription through insurance while the customer is standing there so that you know if there will be a problem. Also, many pharmacy systems allow you to see what the customer paid the previous month. If it is different, let the patient know before they walk away.

It's not about you
Know that the customer's frustration is usually not personal. They are sick, frustrated with their insurance and health costs, and likely tired from a long day of doctors and errands. And customers, understand that the pharmacist doesn't mean to be rude or short with you. They may have just been yelled at by someone on the phone or this may be the 50th time today that they are explaining how deductibles reset (and we do it know the specifics of all individual health plans) or they may be short staffed today because someone is sick.

Kindness will take you far
Last Monday, the person ahead of me in the Starbucks drive thru paid for my coffee. That small act of kindness absolutely made my morning, lifted my spirits, and made me thoughtful in my interactions with people that day. It was pretty powerful and it only cost a couple of dollars.

Instead of focusing on what you cannot do for someone, try to focus on what you can and how you can make things a little better (if it is in your power). If anything, be kind and smile. We don't know the burdens that other people are carrying. Let's try not to make the problems worse.

PracticeJoanna Simmon