A new report finds that Walgreen’s attempts to “revolutionize” the pharmacy may pose risks to patient privacy, medication accuracy and drug security. The new pharmacy model, named “Well Experience,” takes the pharmacist out of the traditional prescription fill work area and into a public space in front of the pharmacy. The out-in-front pharmacist remotely monitors the pharmacy technicians and checks the accuracy of prescriptions using photos and video displayed on a computer screen. Researchers made 100 visits to 50 Well Experience stores in Illinois, Indiana, and Florida to observe the model.
Based on the study’s findings, CtW has filed a complaint with the US Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) alleging widespread breaches of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
CtW’s investigation found significant problems related to this model, including:
- Increased pharmacist distractions. Field researchers observed nearly 150 distractions and interruptions to pharmacists—which are associated with increased medication dispensing? errors—that were unique to the Well Experience pharmacy model’s design.
- Violations of patient privacy. In 80 percent of stores visited, sensitive, HIPAA-protected patient information, such as medical histories, was left unattended on or near the pharmacist’s desk and visible to customers in the pharmacy area.
- Inadequate medication security. Prescription medicine—in one case hydrocodone—was left unattended and within the reach of customers in 46 percent of stores visited.
- Low rates of patient counseling. Field researchers observed a consultation rate of 8.2 percent in Well Experience pharmacies, despite Walgreens’ claims that the model increases counseling. Academic studies of chain pharmacies using secret shoppers found a rate of 27 to 53 percent. Pharmacists are required by law to offer counseling for new prescriptions.
Read the full report here.