Back in early April, the Good Friday holiday this year had to share the spotlight with two other events: My middle-aged birthday (no numbers are being cited) and my third (if not fourth) bout with COVID-19 – despite being vaccinated and boosted.
But that’s not the point of this prosaic screed. Once again – historically, the third time now – here’s yet another anecdote on how the retail supply chain industry is not that far ahead of the healthcare supply chain after all.
For you veteran HPN readers, you may recall how I shared several vignettes highlighting a state government agency and two retail outlets that experienced the type of information technology challenges that were supposed to have been solved in those areas within the first decade of the new millennium. One of the examples involved a certain retail outlet with a bullseye for a logo. (See my SKU’d column, “Chicken Brittle,” September 2019 HPN, p. 4, (https://www.hpnonline.com/sourcing-logistics/article/21093188/chicken-brittle and before that, the “Flash Point” item in my Fast Foreward column in April 2007, HPN.)
Alas, today, we’re apparently no farther ahead on this pathway of progress.
Here’s what happened at an unnamed retail pharmacy outlet that shares a lettered logo design with a famous resurrected Major League Baseball team.
Once the doctor had called in my prescription for Paxlovid hours earlier in the day, and a notification was received that the prescription was ready for pickup, I pulled up to convenient drive-through window and requested my prescription from the pharmacist on duty.
Red flag No. 1: With apologies, the pharmacist notified me that they were out of the medication. Nothing in inventory.
Red flag No. 2: She advised me that I would have to get my prescription at another of their retail pharmacy locations.
Knowing how efficient healthcare IT bills itself to be, I immediately asked the pharmacist to call the nearest retail pharmacy location to make sure they had enough inventory to fulfill my subscription. She agreed, checked all around and found the nearest location several miles away in a neighboring village with available stock. She also alerted them that I was heading over post-haste.
With appreciation, I headed to retail pharmacy No. 2. Apparently, this location only had one pharmacist on duty and a long line inside the store. When she returned to me at the drive-through window, she congenially remembered the telephone conversation and my case.
Then she disappeared.
A line started forming in the drive-through lane behind me. After 15 minutes, the pharmacist returned to the window and noticed the idle parade of cars behind me in the queue. She sheepishly asked if I would drive around the block so that she could take care of all the other customers.
Red flag No. 3: When I finally returned, I learned what had happened. The pharmacist calmly shared with me that the insurance company (again, no names, but a primary color dominates its branding) already had processed the claim at the original retail pharmacy location … without knowing that the inventory levels at that location were depleted. When the new location tried to fill my prescription the insurance company wouldn’t cover it, so the pharmacist had to call the original location to fulfill the approved order.
This took at least an hour spanning two drive-through retail pharmacy locations that should have known better because this retail pharmacy corporation – like that other major retail department store corporation – routinely boasts about its supply chain and IT acumen at prominent trade shows and in a variety of media outlets.
Wasn’t the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology supposed to solve all of this at least a decade earlier?
The rolling healthcare reform initiatives in the 1990s through the 2000s and through the 2010s were designed to ensure all of us were insured, retained our preferred clinicians and could conveniently, safely and securely access our health records anywhere at any time because all the healthcare computers would be talking to one another in an interoperable cyberworld that sped information flow.
If the retail industry is any indicator, we’re apparently not there yet, despite the pomp, hype and circumstance. You’ve heard how they’re so much ahead of healthcare, but that’s not really the case.
We’re still in this together. We should work together to solve it once and for all.