Customer satisfaction levels decline

PHILADELPHIA —For the first time in years, pharmacy customers registered a decline in overall satisfaction with their community pharmacies in 2006, a major new report affirms.

The just-released 2007 Pharmacy Satisfaction Digest clearly shows that pharmacy operators have some ground to make up in the aftermath of Medicare Part D and the onset of new third-party competition, rising co-pays and other forces that have roiled the pharmacy market.

The digest, from WilsonRx and Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, points to a modest but worrisome erosion in customer satisfaction across all pharmacy trade channels. The vast majority of respondents—98 percent of the more than 33,500 pharmacy customers surveyed by Wilson—remain satisfied with their pharmacy overall. But for the first time since 2002, consumers registered a modest but measurable decline in overall satisfaction. Respondents who described themselves as “highly satisfied” with their pharmacy declined from 58 percent in 2006 to 53 percent early this year.

The chief culprit may be something over which pharmacy retailers had little control: the confusing, and sometimes chaotic, startup of the Medicare Part D drug insurance program. The rising copay levels and generally higher out-of-pocket costs many pharmacy customers incurred in 2006 also fueled resentment among consumers, including hundreds of thousands of Medicare beneficiaries whose Part D coverage ran out before the end of the year when they hit the “doughnut hole” coverage gap.

The dizzying array of Part D coverage plans and the overall growth of pharmacy benefit management plans were major factors in the decline in customer satisfaction, said Jim Wilson, founder and president of Wilson Health Information and WilsonRx. “It was having to explain all the different plans and options,” Wilson told Drug StoreNews. “It’s just a mess out there. I know it’s taking up a lot of the pharmacists’ time, and they’re frustrated.”

Adding to the confusion, he said, is the rapid rise in the number of drug coverage plans overall. “Not only is it Part D,” Wilson said. “There are all these other PBMs coming onto the marketplace…that are muddying the waters and making the pharmacist’s job more complicated.”

Community pharmacists across all trade channels have done their best to alleviate concerns over coverage and co-pays and to help Medicare and third-party beneficiaries sort through their coverage options. In the long run, those efforts continue to pay off. Despite the slight downturn in consumer perceptions, more than half of all pharmacy customers polled by Wilson remain highly satisfied with their pharmacy overall, and most have positive pharmacy return intentions.

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