Gene J. Puskar/AP

Consumers Favor Service Over Price When Buying Prescription Drugs

September 29, 2008 06:58 AM
by Lindsey Chapman
A new survey found that customers want more than cheap drugs from a retailer; they want good service, too.

Low Prices Don’t Replace Good Service

The survey, conducted by J.D. Power and Associates, says that pharmaceutical providers need to offer more than low-cost drugs to appeal to consumers. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., for example, spearheaded the cheap, generic drugs movement, but it ranked at the bottom of mass merchandise stores in the 2008 National Pharmacy Study. Target Corp. ranked at the top.

“The bottom line is that just providing a $4 generic prescription is not the single driver to driving satisfaction. Cost is part of the equation, but personal service trumps cost,” Jim Dougherty, executive director of J.D. Power’s health care practice, said in a Reuters article.

To assess customer satisfaction with pharmaceutical providers, J.D. Power examined seven categories for brick-and-mortar stores: non-pharmacist staff, store convenience, medication availability and information, layout and design, cost competitiveness, remote ordering convenience, and pharmacists. For mail order providers, J.D. Power reviewed ordering convenience, delivery convenience, medication availability and information, cost competitiveness and customer service representatives.

Additionally, the survey revealed that about 6 percent of the 15,163 customers who participated in the survey said they had used the new health clinics showing up in stores, but 18 percent said they would consider switching stores to try one.

The Push for Generic Drugs

Drug companies are resorting to new methods of introducing the public to generic brands of medications, like product placement. Rather than subject viewers to only TV, print and Web ads, they’re trying product placement on popular TV shows. “You can’t ignore a product, much less TiVo it out of your way, if it’s an integral part of the story you’re following,” Newsweek writes. For example, NuvaRing, a contraceptive, has shown up in “Scrubs,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “The King of Queens.” Lucas Conley, author of the book “Obsessive Branding Disorder,” told Newsweek, “The doctors living out the dramas on the screen, shouting out drug names or sagely prescribing things—that’s a tacit endorsement of these products.”

Related Topic: Retail clinics

A recent study by Rand Corp. suggests that more consumers are seeking help with basic health care needs at clinics popping up in drug stores and big box stores around the country. It’s a form of “health care on the go” for busy people looking to avoid long waits in a primary care physician’s office, researchers told the Los Angeles Daily News.

The clinics also offer less expensive alternatives to the emergency room or a primary care physician for under or uninsured individuals. Most often, people use these facilities for simpler issues, such sinus infections, bronchitis, ear infections or immunizations. Clinics like those at Wal-Mart can help take the strain off emergency rooms and primary care physicians so they may attend to patients with more serious needs.

But for their benefits, retail clinics have also caused concern among health care providers. Some physicians worry that these clinics will attempt to address chronic problems a person experiences. listed several positive and negative effects of retail clinics. On the negative side, Wal-Mart came up again as a “race to the bottom” type of facility “where quality must be sacrificed for price.” The article continued, “In the healthcare world, cheaper isn’t always better, and competing with Wal-Mart clinics could result in decreased quality of care.”

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