Survey: More and more pharmacy patients can't get satisfaction through mail order

WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif. — Satisfaction among customers using mail-order pharmacies to fill their prescriptions continued to decline, falling significantly below customer satisfaction with brick-and-mortar pharmacies, according to the J.D. Power and Associates "2012 U.S. Pharmacy Study" released Thursday.

"The erosion in customer satisfaction with mail-order pharmacies may foretell challenges to their business model, as prior to 2011, customer satisfaction was more equivalent to the brick-and-mortar experience," stated Rick Millard, senior director of the healthcare practice at J.D. Power and Associates.

“Patients expressed a clear, unmistakable message in this survey: They want the ability to choose the pharmacy option that best meets their needs and those of their families," said Lonny Wilson, National Community Pharmacists Association president, regarding the J.D. Power report. "Health plan sponsors, government policy-makers and health insurance plans should all take note of these findings. … [C]ommunity pharmacists can work with plan sponsors to reduce healthcare costs while preserving pharmacy choice, which is popular with patients."

Overall satisfaction with mail-order pharmacies averaged 792 (on a 1,000-point scale) in 2012, which is 22 points below the average overall satisfaction score for brick-and-mortar pharmacies this year, and 14 points lower than in 2011. This marks the second consecutive year of significant declines in customer satisfaction with mail-order pharmacies.  

In contrast, overall satisfaction with brick-and-mortar pharmacies has held steady year over year, with an average score of 814 in 2012, a slight decrease from 818 in 2011. "Customer service is becoming an increasingly important advantage of the brick-and-mortar pharmacy experience," Millard said. "The pharmacist is at the heart of that customer service. While the majority of customers don't speak with the pharmacist, their presence may help draw customers to stores."

Health Mart ranked highest among independent drug store pharmacies, with a score of 848. Walgreens led retail pharmacy chains in customer satisfaction, while Sam's Club ranked highest among mass merchandiser pharmacies. Publix was the highest-ranked supermarket pharmacy. 

The study found that 37% of customers who used in-store pharmacies are asked by the pharmacy staff if they want to speak with a pharmacist, a slight increase from 35% in 2011. Among the 23% of customers who do speak with a pharmacist in person, 61% also purchase other over-the-counter medications during their visit, compared with just 24% among those who do not speak with a pharmacist.  

The study also found only a slight increase in the proportion of customers who indicated they are required to use mail ordering for repeat or maintenance prescriptions, compared with 2011 (42% vs. 41%, respectively). However, overall satisfaction among customers who elect to use mail-order pharmacies is significantly higher than among those who are required to use them (810 vs. 768, respectively). In addition, satisfaction with the cost competitiveness of mail-order pharmacies among customers who are not required to use them is 773, compared with 714 among mandatory customers.

"Customers who are given a choice tend to perceive they are paying less than they would at a store pharmacy, or are deriving a better value for their purchase," Millard said. 

For the full release and retail rankings, click here

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