Thursday, October 13, 2016

Profit MUST NEVER get in the way of PATIENT SAFETY

Suppose you're a pharmacist. You probably went to school to become a pharmacist for two reasons: 1, You wanted a good salary in a recession-proof job. 2. You want to help people. You probably have an interest in science and chemistry or medication. And you swore an oath to help the patient.

Further suppose you're a retail pharmacist. You might have worked as a technician beforehand and you definitely worked as an intern in pharmacy somewhere along the way. And during this entire time you never saw "retail pharmacy" as it really is ~ a monster... the out of control beast that feeds on profit at the expense of patient safety. You either didn't see it or you didn't realize it until you were deep into the job.

I'm not stupid. I owned my own business for many years. I know that a business needs profit to survive. That's a given. But in healthcare it's a different situation. We have a code of ethics to follow. Profit MUST never get in the way of patient safety. If it does, then it shouldn't be done. Those stakeholders that realize this need to find another way to make profit without jeopardizing healthcare in any way.

BUT I work for a company (you probably do too) that stretches the line between patient safety and profit as thin as it will go. Even now, in the midst of flu season, we still can't get the extra technician coverage we were promised months ago. Suddenly "scheduling" no longer means scheduling. "We don't have anyone to send you" is code for "We didn't hire extra help because in a couple of months we won't need extra help." And what happens to the workload then? It's completed by the people on staff now... pharmacists and technicians run around like greyhounds around a track, over and over, until we're tired and miserable. Pharmacists that make serious mistakes will all tell you that their mistakes happened when they were tired and miserable.

And so, here I am with a company that constantly adds new bullcrap to the already overworked staff. New procedures, added responsibilities, higher sales quotas, lower inventory targets... which are all about profit. I hate to open the company email account every day for fear that there is some new directive that's just expected to be done when we don't have time to do what we're doing now. When's the last time you saw a new policy or procedure that's about patient safety? No? Haven't seen one? Neither have I.

Unfortunately, things are not going to change until one of two things happens:

1. We stand up to The Authorities, blow the whistle, band together, and/or DO SOMETHING.

2. Someone gets hurt or killed and it brings widespread media attention.

The problem with number two is that The Authorities know all this. Their bunch of ball-washing bastards (The Lawyers) have thought ahead and now we have all kinds of "policies" in place that pretend to protect the patient. In reality, those policies are there to protect the company. If a patient gets a medication that was meant for someone else and dies, it's the fault of the technician that didn't verify name, date of birth, address, etc. And it's also the fault of the pharmacist on staff "overseeing" everything that's going on. No, it couldn't be because the tech is so overwhelmed by work in an understaffed pharmacy that they made a simple mistake.

So my fellow retail pharmacist... do your best and watch your back. The company you work for is your friend until you interfere with their profit. It's a fine line to ride. I work hard. I know you work hard too. But work smart too.

We will find a way out of this mess and return professionalism to our profession. Just remember: Patient Safety is the MOST IMPORTANT thing!


Anonymous said...

When you describe "retail pharmacy" are you talking about pharmacies that are in other box stores like grocery stores and Target/WalMart or does that also include pharmacy chains like Rite Aid and CVS? If the latter, is the only non-retail pharmacy the few and far between independent private pharmacies?

Crazy RxMan said...

Retail pharmacy is anything that dispenses drugs that's not a hospital, but in my case I'm referring to grocery store chains with pharmacies.