Health consumers prefer supermarket-based pharmacies to chain or mass merchandiser drugstores, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2011 U.S. National Pharmacy Study. Mass merchants, however, often beat out both supermarket and chain drugstores when it comes to price.
In the study, J.D. Power segments brick-and-mortar pharmacies from mail-order. Brick-and-mortar pharmacies cover chain drug stores, supermarkets and mass merchandisers/Big Box stores.
What drives top performance for consumers shopping brick-and-mortar pharmacies are the ordering and pick-up process, the store itself, cost, the non-pharmacist staff, and the pharmacist.
In mail-order, quality translates into cost competitiveness, prescription delivery, ordering, and customer service. Consumer satisfaction with the mail-order Rx channel declined between 2010 and 2011, primarily due to ordering and delivery problems. But due to price and challenges in switching back to the brick/mortar option, mail-order customers are largely expectedly to remain in the channel and not switch to a store. One-third of consumers are required by their insurance provider to use mail-order for maintenance and repeat scripts – these customers are even less satisfied with their pharmacy than those who freely choose to go the mail-order route for prescriptions.
J.D. Power, analysts on consumer satisfaction, notes that Amazon has set a high bar for speed and convenience in the online shopping world. Mail-order pharmacy has a ways to go to catch up to those standards.
High customer satisfaction ties to those consumers who have an ability to have a private conversation with the pharmacist or staff in a private area of the pharmacy. Furthermore, added services such as immunizations and wellness services are driving higher consumer satisfaction with those pharmacies who offer them.
The highest rankings by segment were:
Chain drug stores: Good Neighbor Pharmacy, Health Mart, The Medicine Shoppe (all well above competitors in the segment)
Mass merchandisers: Target, Sam’s Club, Costco (with Walmart at the bottom)
Supermarkets: Publix, Wegmans, Winn-Dixie, Jewel-Osco, Vons (all above the segment average)
Mail-order: Kaiser Permanente Pharmacy, Humana RightSourceRx (both well above competitors).
This is the fifth year J.D. Power has conducted the national pharmacy survey. The poll, fielded in May and June 2011, was conducted among 12,300 consumers who filled a new prescription or a refill in early 2011.
Health Populi’s Hot Points: The pharmacy has always been a touchpoint in consumers’ health, but its importance is growing as a primary care site for wellness, prevention, immunization and a growing menu of consumer-driven primary health care services. The supermarket channel, in particular, has begun to marry messages about nutrition and healthy food with chronic health condition messaging. For example, Wegmans (ranked #2 after Publix stores, features a food/health related display adjacent to the pharmacy: this month, my local Wegmans has been promoting quinoa’s nutritional contributions to healthy eating at a “pharmacy teaching table.’ In the winter, the pharmacy promoted the purchase of frozen blueberries to enhance shoppers’ intake of the fruit’s health benefits in the cold season.
This is another example of health being where our Surgeon General says it is – not in isolation in the doctor’s office, but where we live, work, play and pray. Let’s add the word “shop” to that mantra.
On a personal note, I have a comment to make on J.D. Power’s mail-order pharmacy results. In the past six months, we have been forced to switch to the mail-order channel to acquire a repeat prescription for a member of our family. The company, whom I will not name, is one of the poorer performers on the table – and no surprise to me. The company has a cumbersome, un-helpful, poorly designed website which it claims streamlines the process. For the first three months of the fulfillment process, I’ve had to dial into the company’s call center – which has no hours on the weekend, when I, and most working people, usually run household errands. Suffice it to say, after speaking with the doctor-prescriber’s insurance associate, our experience with this mail-order company was not atypical.
Would that this company, whose services I am compelled to use, could demonstrate the efficiency, accessibility, and friendly quality of my favorite shoe purveyor – Zappos. This is a case where I cannot, if you’ll excuse the pun, vote with my feet.