It’s a Saturday before a Monday holiday (Pentecost) and so of course, that’s when I needed to get a prescription. Fortunately, my area has a number of drop in clinics (like urgent care) that are open on the weekend, off I popped to the big city–15 minutes on the bus–to see a doctor.
My normal doctor is within walking distance of my house, which is super handy. His office is in an apartment building, and I’ve thought if I had a chronic condition, I could just move into that building, because how convenient would that be?
When I see him and need a prescription he generally just hands me the medication. In the canton I live in, Basel-land, doctors can disperse their own prescriptions. He keeps a store of the things he’s most likely to prescribe in his office. It’s super convenient. I only have to go to the pharmacy for unusual things or for controlled substances. Otherwise, it’s one-stop shopping.
But, because I needed a doctor and a prescription on Saturday, I headed into the clinic which is in Basel-stadt, which is a different canton. (Or half canton if someone is going to get picky in the comments.) They don’t allow doctors to hand out drugs. So after an exam and the doctor concurring that antibiotics were, indeed, needed, she handed me a prescription.
Off I went to the pharmacy, which is the topic of this post–even though it took a while to get there. I handed my prescription and my insurance card to the tech behind the counter. He scanned my insurance card (it has a chip!) and, even though I’d never been to the pharmacy before, it automatically put my name and address into his system, which he verified with me.
This particular pharmacy has their storeroom not visible to the customer. He put the prescription in the computer and someone (or a robot–I don’t actually know) grabs it and sends it via pneumatic tube to him. He printed out a label, stuck a sticker on my box, put another sticker on my paper prescription, walked two steps and showed the prescription and the box to the actual pharmacist, and handed me my medication. Total time at the pharmacy? Two minutes.
What didn’t he do? Count any pills.
In my 10 years of life in Switzerland, I’ve never had a pharmacist count any pills. Prescriptions come in blister packs or bottles with the amount pre-counted. Daily medication comes in bottles or packs of 30. Other medication comes in a count of how many the doctor is likely to prescribe. Incidentally, the doctor prescribed 3 days of antibiotics for me (twice a day, so 6 pills) but it came in a box of 10. They didn’t pop out the extra 4 pills so I wouldn’t take them. (I suppose they wouldn’t give me extra if it were oxycontin or something–not that they do that around here. The Swiss will do everything in their power to avoid pain medication.)
I also never pay a copay at the pharmacy. I do have a copay on my medication, but they bill my insurance directly (Switzerland does private insurance–we pay about $1400 a month for health insurance for a family of 4.). My insurance company will then bill me the difference. This is in stark contrast to the doctor who will bill me directly and then I submit the bill to the insurance company for reimbursement.
Now, on occasion, the pharmacy hasn’t had the medication I needed. In that case, as long as I drop the prescription off by 4:00 pm, it’s ready by 8:00 am the next day. Otherwise, it’s never been more than 2-3 minutes between handing over my prescription and walking out the door with medication.
Not needing to count pills saves so much time. I wonder why the US hasn’t moved to such a model for medication.