UCSF and Walgreens “reimagining pharmacy care”. Yeah, not so much…

baby_cryingUCSF: “A new initiative by UC San Francisco and Walgreens seeks to turn those numbers around, starting at the neighborhood pharmacy….“Walgreens at UCSF” is a pilot store that offers the most advanced level of community pharmacy care available in the United States today. It starts with the store’s unusual layout: Walk inside and the first thing you see isn’t racks of cosmetics or greeting cards; instead there’s a concierge desk where you can arrange a private consultation with a pharmacist or find out whether your prescription is ready. Pharmacists work with every customer to make sure they understand the medication they’re picking up, while also offering services such as the medication management that brought Helen to UCSF… For UCSF, it will serve as a teaching ground for student pharmacists completing their doctoral degree program, a clinical training site for pharmacy residents, and a research facility that explores new pharmacy patient-care models and programs.”

I found myself at UCSF Medical Center earlier this week and decided to visit the new Walgreens. I had previously read about the setup on Twitter and a couple of articles I found online.

Here are my thoughts and experiences regarding the “Wallgreens at UCSF”.

  •  It’s a small store with a very open layout. It’s quite nice, actually.
  • They wouldn’t let me take any photos. I was told I’d have to go through UCSF and Walgreen’s PR department. Lame. Super lame. That right there tells me it’s just another retail store owned by a big business.
  • It’s quiet in there. Currently they’re doing less than 100 scripts a day, according to the pharmacy student I spoke with.
  • There were 3 pharmacists and 2 pharmacy students manning the front with an unknown number filling prescriptions in the back. My brother and I were two of three people in the store at the time.
  • The store has OTC products that you would find in any retail pharmacy. I get the idea that the pharmacists and pharmacy students are there to answer questions about OTC product selection. Lots and lots of Walgreens branded stuff on the walls. Go figure. 
  • I was greeted by a pharmacy student, “Hi, can I help you”. Cringe. I asked a lot of questions, and received a lot of answers. Not the answers I was hoping for. Nice kid. His goal is to work for Walgreens. Oh, how the mighty UCSF has fallen. A statement like that when I was a 4th year at UCSF would have resulted in immediate public humiliation followed by disembowelment in the pharmacy quad. Seriously, you wouldn’t have heard that 15 years ago. Times change I suppose.
  • The pharmacist was a Walgreens employee, not a UCSF employee. Lame. Just another retail pharmacist board off her butt. Not once did she even look up from her computer screen, even when I moved toward her and asked the pharmacy student about what the pharmacists do. I got the impression that she was hoping the pharmacy student would keep people away from her. 
  • Scripts are filled in the back and checked by the pharmacist out front using Telepharmacy. Lame. The pharmacist is still checking every product that’s filled. How is that any different? Just because they’re doing it 10 feet from where the tech fills the script?
  • They use bar code scanning technology to verify correct med as part of the filling procedure.
  • They don’t use robotics. They use some type of “counting machine”, although they wouldn’t let me anywhere near the back of the store to check it out.
  • They have two consultation rooms for private consultations. Neither was occupied during my visit.
  • They do not handle discharge meds for the patients in the hospital by default. They only fill the discharge meds if the patients come into the pharmacy upon discharge. How is this any different than any other retail pharmacy? Discharge meds should be ordered prior to discharge, filled by the pharmacy, and delivered to the patient’s bedside where the patient should receive MTM consultation from one of the hundred pharmacy students running around the hospital.
  • The Walgreens now has access to the hospitals 340B status. What! Dude, seriously, that’s so wrong I don’t even know where to start.

What happened to UCSF? They’ve done nothing more than put a big chain retail pharmacy on hospital grounds. I’m so disappointed in my alma mater. It’s not bleeding edge pharmacy practice. Hell, it’s not even a new practice model. It’s the same retail model I worked more than a decade ago. To be fair, there are some differences. The pharmacy has an open layout for one, and the pharmacist is sitting out front checking the technicians work via images on a screen. Not sure how much impact that has on the “model” though. Patient care – pharmacy practice – should take place at the bedside, especially when the pharmacy is across the street from a major medical center like UCSF.

Congratulations on “reimagining pharmacy care” UCSF. Not sure what you’ve reimagined other than a new marketing campaign perhaps. I don’t think you’ve done anything to advance pharmaceutical care. On the flipside, Walgreens shareholders must be doing backflips as they’ve managed to get their foot in the door of one of the premier healthcare systems in the world. That’s certainly a feather in their cap.