I've been doing alot of thinking lately about what constitutes a patient and what constitutes a customer. The easy answer is that a patient is someone in need of medical assistance whereas a customer is just there to buy something. Easy, right...or is it? Patients buy medication so that makes them a customer as well. Should we include a caveat that says they are only considered patients if they are obtaining the medication for "legitimate" use? I know, we're only supposed to be filling the rx if it's for legitimate use but we are in the real world not FDA/DEA-land where everything is black or white. When there are drugs on the market such as Suboxone that are obviously for questionable patient to begin with, things get more into the grey area.
What about people buying OTC products and asking your advise: patient or customer? How much time do we spend on this transaction? We all have encountered the "patient" who asks us a question about an OTC product and they only want us to agree with them they don't really want our advise. Our time is money. Do we waste time on these people or cut it off quick. They are, after all, only making a purchase of a few dollars anyway.
How about the person on the other end of the phone, who doesn't fill their prescriptions with you but their pharmacy is closed/mail-order and they just have to ask this question now? About 30 seconds into the conversation you realise that they don't want to hear what you have to say, they just want to argue or they just want to talk. Once again, our time is money. Lately, I really don't have patients for these "patients"! I really don't have patients for these calls when I have people standing in line waiting for counseling on the rx that I just filled and they just paid for.
I think as pharmacists we have given away our information for far too long. I know it started out as the mom and pop stores that knew all of their patients by name and were neighbors with most of them. Of course you'll give your neighbor advise for free when it's needed. Then this morphed into pharmacists working for corporations who used this free advise to "draw customers in". It was a form of public relations in both cases. These days with everybody and their brother on some kind of drug do we really need this kind of P.R.? The demand for our services is such that we should no longer have to give it away. The question is how do we change? After decades or even centuries of free advise how do we start charging? How do we set a price tag on our knowledge? Obviously the MDs have figured it out. Who will be the first pharmacist to say "You don't get your prescriptions filled here so I will not answer that question until you give me your credit card number."? The computer help desks do this why can't we?
So let me know how you classify a patient vs. a customer. I would really like to know. As for me, I'll continue giving away my knowledge because that's what my employer demands of me, but I won't like it and if it's not life-threatening, I may tell them to call their own pharmacy. I don't care if it is mail-order and you have to be on hold forever!