The major annual surveys of pharmacy customers consistently show a high level of satisfaction with retail pharmacy, and the latest iteration from Consumer Reports magazine is no exception.


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Consumer Reports looks at pharmacy satisfaction

February 17th, 2014

NEW YORK – The major annual surveys of pharmacy customers consistently show a high level of satisfaction with retail pharmacy, and the latest iteration from Consumer Reports magazine is no exception.

However, echoing the results of similar studies, the Consumer Reports poll shows that the major drug chains fail to match the ratings of many supermarket and mass merchant pharmacy operators as well as those of independent drug stores and Kaiser Permanente’s mail order pharmacy.

The survey results are based on the evaluations of 33,025 subscribers reporting on 39,641 prescription purchases between April 2012 and April 2013. The scores reflect overall satisfaction with the purchase experience; a score of 80 means respondents were very satisfied on average.

The magazine says that differences of less than six points between scores are not meaningful, cautioning that since the results are based on the experiences of its subscribers they might not reflect those of the population as a whole.

The highest score, 93, was achieved by Wegmans Food Markets Inc. The Rochester, N.Y.-based supermarket chain received high ratings for speed and accuracy in filling scripts, for the courtesy and helpfulness of its pharmacy staff, and for the knowledge of its pharmacists.

Close behind in a three-way tie for second place at 92 were McKesson Corp.’s Health Mart franchised chain of independent pharmacies, independent drug stores as a group, and Sacramento, Calif.-based Raley’s Supermarkets. Bi-Mart, a Eugene, Ore.-based membership discount chain, and Medicine Shoppe International Inc. tied for third with 91 points. Kaiser Permanente and Kroger Co.’s Smith’s Food and Drug came in fourth with 90 points.

The highest-rated drug chain was Discount Drug Mart, a regional chain with 72 locations in Ohio. The chain received 89 points, followed by Kinney Drugs Inc., with 86. Target Corp. and Kroger’s Fred Meyer division also scored 86.

Of the three largest drug chains, Rite Aid Corp. fared best with a score of 83. Walgreens came in at 82; and CVS/pharmacy scored 79 — the same score given to Walmart.
All three of the largest drug chain got high scores for speed and accuracy, while Rite Aid and Walgreens were rated better than average for courtesy and helpfulness and their pharmacists’ knowledge level.

CVS/pharmacy and Walmart received average scores for both speed and accuracy and courtesy and helpfulness but were rated better than average for their pharmacists’ knowledge.

One striking aspect of the Consumer Reports rankings is the strong performance of several supermarket chains and the two leading membership warehouse club operators. Of the 21 top-rated pharmacy operators, nine are primarily food retailers. The other supermarket operators that ranked high included Publix Super Markets Inc., Stop & Shop Cos. and Hy-Vee Inc. (all with scores of 89), Hannaford (88), Shoprite (87) and Albertsons LLC (87).

Costco Wholesale Corp. and Walmart’s Sam’s Club division received 89 and 88 points, respectively. In addition to Bi-Mart’s strong showing, two other discount chains, Shopko Stores and Kmart, tied with 88 points and received high marks in all three performance areas.

In its analysis, Consumer Reports lauded the growing role of pharmacies as primary health care providers, noting that the vast majority of readers rated the knowledge of their pharmacist as very good or excellent, although independent drug stores did best, with 94% of independent drug store customers rating their pharmacist highly.

Independents’ customers were also much more likely than others to have discussed their medications with their pharmacist. The magazine added that a third of the pharmacy customers at chain drug stores or big-box stores felt the pharmacist seemed too busy.
Walgreens’ practice of placing a pharmacist at a desk in front of the pharmacy counter in some stores (including its flagship locations) was noted as an effort to emphasize the availability of the chain’s pharmacists.

Independents also scored high on wait time for getting customers’ scripts filled. Only 7% of independents’ customers reported finding a prescription not ready in the course of 12 months, and just 4% complained of long waits. By contrast, 19% of chain drug customers found their prescriptions not ready while 21% experienced long waits.

A large number, almost 40%, of readers encountered an out-of-stock of their medication in the course of the preceding year. Albertsons performed worst, with 54% of customers experiencing an out-of-stock, while 45% or more had the same experience at Jewel-Osco, Kmart, Medicine Shoppe, Safeway, Sam’s Club and Rite Aid.

One area in which independent drug stores did not score well was out-of-pocket cost for prescription drugs. The Consumer Reports survey revealed that independents’ customers paid approximately $50 more per year than patients of supermarket and chain drug pharmacies and almost $100 more than those who use the pharmacies of big-box chains.

As other recurring studies, such as Boerhinger-Ingelheim’s annual “Pharmacy Satisfaction Pulse Survey” have found, customers of the largest drug chains are the most likely to use loyalty or rewards programs to save money. Drug chains were also praised for enabling customers to manage their prescriptions online with interactive websites that allow patients to check the number of refills remaining, place orders and select pickup times, or even opt for automatic refills and notification.

CVS/pharmacy and Walgreens were singled out for their mobile apps that allow pharmacy customers to order refills by scanning their medication bottle labels with a smartphone. CVS/pharmacy’s app won further praise for its ability to enable users to identify a drug based on its color, shape and imprint and to check possible drug interactions with over-the-counter medications. For its part, the Walgreens app was called out for enabling users to chat with a pharmacy expert 24 hours a day.

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