Ye Olde Pharmacy Days
Fifteen years ago, when my daughter was first diagnosed with diabetes, we were given a handful of paper prescriptions. I drove to the local pharmacy near our house which, conveniently, doubled as a Hallmark store. I handed over the prescriptions and went home with two kinds of insulin, including one which had been diluted to make her baby-sized doses possible. I also went home with test strips, lancets, syringes and glucagon. At regular intervals I returned to the pharmacy, paid a reasonable copay, and received more supplies. Sometimes I was also able to pick up a birthday card or a baby gift while I was there.
It sounds like a fairy tale now. The only thing I still obtain at a brick-and-mortar pharmacy is insulin, and I fear those days are numbered.
I fail to understand how the current system could possibly be more cost-effective...or better in any other way for that matter.
The layers of bureaucracy which have been added in the interests of keeping costs down can't really be doing so, can they?
Our endocrinology office now has staff members who answer the office's 'prescription hotline,' speaking, emailing and faxing all day with patients, pharmacies and insurers.
Our health insurer now pays a third party case management company to manage our prescription and durable medical equipment (pump, dexcom, etc.) supply needs. That company then contacts the people at supply distribution companies who then process our order. Both the prescription case management company and the supply shipping company call, email and snail mail us, our insurer, and the aforementioned 'prescription hotline' people regularly with questions, updates and statements.
Then FedEx, UPS or the USPS is paid to deliver our supplies. They're also paid to return wrong orders, or malfunctioning equipment.
How does any bulk purchasing discount not get balanced out by all of these additional expenses?
It's also definitely less efficient, taking days if not weeks to fill prescriptions when it used to be possible to pick it all up on the way home. Or, at worst, kill the 20 minute wait picking out a birthday card or browsing the toy department.
And the room for error has increased exponentially. When I pick up a prescription from CVS, I peek in the bag before I walk away from the counter. If there's a problem it's fixed immediately. Meanwhile, our initial order from Edgepark, containing 2 wrong items, required 3 phone calls, a 48 hour wait for a replacement items, a 2 week wait for a return label, and a trip to the post office. And I'm not sure the billing is straightened out yet.
There's so much wrong with the current healthcare marketplace that this is just the tip of the iceberg. At the same time it serves as a lens through which to view the layers of bureaucracy which are adding expense and frustration for all of the players in the healthcare system.
While it wasn't always convenient to go to the pharmacy, especially with a toddler in tow, it was most certainly better than the rigmarole we go through now.