National Drive-Thru Day…and Pharmacy Impact

I know…I know. I’m reminding you late. It was July 24th. I’m sure it would have changed your plans for the day. (Who makes up these days?)

I do think the drive-thru is interesting for several reasons:

  1. What it says about us overall; and
  2. It’s impact on the pharmacy business.

In general, there aren’t many healthy uses of the drive-thru. It’s a productivity tool that (like technology) limits our interactions with other people.

A few facts for you:

  • We spend $110B at drive-thru fast food restaurants each year.
  • The first drive-thru fast food restaurant was at In-N-Out Burger in 1948.
  • Strangest use of a drive-thru (IMHO) was Gaitling’s Funeral Home in 1989.
  • In the mid-2000’s, drive-thru staffing was changed such that the order taker could be outsourced to allow the person taking your money to be more productive (i.e., you’re talking to a person at a different location).

So, what’s happened in pharmacy? I’ll have to find the date of the first drive-thru in pharmacy.

  • Walgreens certainly seems to be the dominant user of this strategy where they will typically have 1-2 lanes for drop off and pick-up of prescriptions. This is definitely a productivity play for the drive (suburban) culture. I’ve used it frequently when I have a first-fill and either kids in the car or it’s raining or cold.
  • 29% of people said they use this method in a WilsonRx 2008 study…but only 3% said they prefer this method.
  • 42% of people who used the drive-thru were highly satisfied (compared to 56% highly satisfied with either pick-up at the store or receiving by mail).

The big question a few years ago was whether this productivity enhancement damaged the pharmacist-patient relationship. I would argue “of course it did”. How could it not? You no longer talk to them face-to-face.

I would also question privacy here. On the one-hand, it’s harder for the patient’s behind you in line (i.e., in their car behind you) to eavesdrop. BUT, when there are two lines, it seems pretty easy for the car next to you to hear everything you talk about with the pharmacist. AND, if we’ve learned on thing from mobile phone headsets, it’s that people seem to talk louder into the phone (i.e., I think the pharmacist inside is talking to you louder).

Of course, one true question is whether you really had a relationship with the pharmacist to begin with. In most cases, you’re dealing with a pharmacy tech not the pharmacist. The majority of people (even at independent pharmacies) don’t know the first name of their pharmacists (BTW – mine are Marc and Renee).

Now, what I find most shocking in this chart from the 2008 Pharmacy Satisfaction Digest by WilsonRx is that only 1% more know the name of their pharmacist at a chain drugstore than at mail order.

3 Responses to “National Drive-Thru Day…and Pharmacy Impact”

  1. Larry’s Drive-In Pharmacy was the first ever. Opened Nov. 1 1979

  2. I think Rite Aid had the first Drive – Thru Pharmacy? Alexander Grass founded the Rite Aid chain in Scranton, Pennsylvania, as Thrif D Discount Center.


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    […] name their pharmacist in a study from years ago, but I couldn’t find it.  I’ll share this post from a few years ago on the topic.)  Either way, there’s lots of opportunity as this report […]

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