What to Look for When Picking a Pharmacy

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What to Look for When Picking a Pharmacy
July 16, 2021
RxLocal Team

When it comes to finding high-quality care for you and your family, independent pharmacies are the best choice. They provide enhanced services, offer personalized treatments and programs, and extend genuine concern for you and your loved ones — just a few of the many reasons to choose them. When you decide to do business with an independent, you decide to take a step in the right direction for your health and well-being. Your journey to health, however, doesn’t stop there.

On this journey, one of the most important steps you can take is choosing the right pharmacy. Because you see your pharmacist so often (an average of 35 times a year) and rely on them for so many services, it is essential that you find the best fit.

With countless independent pharmacies in business, though, it can be difficult to decide on one that checks off all of your boxes and meets all of your needs. In an effort to simplify your search process, look to our list of questions and considerations to help you decide which factors really matter. Then, use our Pharmacy Finder to compare options in your area and find the right pharmacy for you.

Consideration #1: Services Offered

As a patient, your top priority at a pharmacy is getting your needs met — whether it be in picking up a prescription, getting a routine test or immunization, or shopping for your favorite supplements and over-the-counter items. When hunting for a new independent pharmacy, it is important to keep these unique needs in mind and find a facility that can cater to all of them. As you browse your options, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does the pharmacy carry the prescriptions I need? — Make sure that the pharmacy in question keeps all of your medications in stock or that they can easily order them for you to pick up at a convenient time. If you take multiple medications, try a pharmacy that specializes in medication synchronization - a convenient service that syncs up all of your medications to be picked up on the same day each month.
  • Do they offer the services that I want? — Most independent pharmacies do more than just dispense prescriptions. In addition, they focus on specialized areas of care that range from compounding custom medications to on-site screenings & testing to medication counseling. If you are looking for more services from your pharmacy, consider which ones those around you have to offer.
  • Do they sell the OTC items I would like to have? — Often, patients need supplemental items to go alongside their prescriptions (for example, cough drops, ibuprofen, or vitamin C for a flu prescription). Pick a pharmacy that carries the over-the-counter items you may need and that can easily pack them with your prescriptions.

Consideration #2: Location and Availability

Once you determine that a pharmacy can offer you the services you need, you should make sure that you can access it with ease. Choose a facility in a convenient location with multiple pick-up options that can accommodate your schedule. The best pharmacies will combine care with convenience in order to get you what you need. When sorting through your options, consider these questions:

  • How close is the pharmacy to me? — The right pharmacy should be well within driving distance, in an area that is easy to navigate through. Accessibility is part of the convenience factor, so choose a pharmacy that you won’t have difficulties finding or getting to.
  • Are they open on the days and times I need them? — Many independent pharmacies are flexible with their operating hours, often staying open late and working into the weekend. Find one that fits within your schedule; and if you need specialized services, find one that accepts appointments for those services.
  • Do they offer flexible pick-up options, like curbside pickup or home delivery? — For prescriptions and OTC items, most pharmacies offer a variety of pick-up options. During COVID-19, many stores started curbside pickup, which they continue to offer as the pandemic winds down. In addition, many pharmacies continue to offer home or office deliveries — which are sometimes even free. Having more pick-up options means less hassle for you; so find a pharmacy that can help you to free up your time.

Consideration #3: Payment and Pricing

As with any service, it is important to look at the pricing options at the pharmacies you have in mind. Generally, independent pharmacies work to provide patients with the lowest possible rates — especially when compared to chains — so find one that does the same, and that will work with you to pay your bill. Here are some things to consider:

  • Do they accept my insurance policy? — Choose a pharmacy that is flexible in accepting different providers, policies, and payment options so that your out-of-pocket costs are minimized. For the costs you do have to pay, consider pharmacies that accept prescription discount cards, and save even more.
  • Do they work to give me the best prices? — Independent pharmacies are more than twice as likely as chains to recommend and dispense a more affordable prescription option (like a generic). Pick a pharmacy that values getting you fair prices on your prescriptions without sacrificing the quality of treatment you receive. The best pharmacies can help you set up a payment plan to reduce the initial cost of certain services or medications you need.
  • Will they take other measures to save me money? — Aside from in-house measures, pharmacies can do several things to help you reduce costs: they can find manufacturer discounts, refer you to assistance programs, and educate you on health insurance options. Taking these small measures adds up and equals big savings for you.

Consideration #4: Atmosphere

With all of the technical considerations in mind, it is also important to think about the look and feel of the pharmacy you decide to do business with. In addition to the atmosphere the store itself creates, be aware of the atmosphere the people create. As a patient, you should feel comfortable with the pharmacy, those who work in it, and those who shop there. On your search, think about the following factors:

  • Is the pharmacy well-maintained? — A clean, up-to-date pharmacy isn’t just important for aesthetics; it gives an indication of how the pharmacy is run, both inside and out. Choose a pharmacy that keeps both the front and back end of the store well-maintained in order to create a professional clinical setting.
  • Are the staff friendly? — Although pharmacies are clinical, they should also be comfortable. A warm and welcoming environment is an important factor in picking a pharmacy, so look for ones that make you feel more at home. Spend some time talking with the staff — whether it be pharmacists, technicians, or clerks — and make a note of the kind of atmosphere they try to create.
  • Do they put in the effort to get to know me? — The best pharmacy staff take the time to get to know their patients on a personal level, leading to better care and better outcomes for you. Find a pharmacy that wants to know you, your family, and your story beyond your prescriptions. Creating community is important in every aspect of life, and pharmacies are no exception; so make sure to pick a place that values it as well.

Consideration #5: Community Involvement

Your pharmacy’s interest in creating community should extend beyond its four walls and out into your local area. The best pharmacies work to improve the lives of those in their community not only by meeting their health and wellness needs, but also by meeting other needs they may have. Choose one that takes an active interest in improving its surroundings. Ask yourself:

  • Are they active members of the community? — Pharmacies that stay involved are more in touch with those that they serve and can therefore provide better care. From attending neighborhood get-togethers to staying connected with local leaders, members of your pharmacy should be active participants in your community and be aware of current events in it.
  • Do they find ways to get involved? — Whether it be hosting clinics or canned food drives, pharmacies have the opportunity to host their own events and create their own causes that benefit the community. Find out what your pharmacy is doing to make a difference and see what you can do to get involved.
  • Do they support and endorse other causes? — In addition to making their own efforts, your pharmacy should support other causes in the community. Not only should they contribute their own time and money to supporting these causes, but they should encourage others to do the same.

Picking a pharmacy is one of the most important decisions you can make for you and your family’s health. With the right checklist, though, you can simplify the process and make a more informed decision. As you search for your right pick, consider this list and consult the RxLocal Pharmacy Finder — then go get the care that you deserve.