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Customers less satisfied with mail-order pharmacies Posted: October 24th, 2012

By Maryalene LaPonsie

Despite the promise of lower costs and greater convenience, mail-order pharmacies lag behind their brick-and-mortar counterparts when it comes to customer satisfaction.

The recent J.D. Power and Associates 2012 U.S. Pharmacy Study found that mail-order pharmacies experienced significant declines in satisfaction for the second straight year. Based on a 1,000-point scale, such pharmacies averaged a score of 792 for overall satisfaction in 2012. In 2011, that number was 806.

For comparison, brick-and-mortar pharmacies had overall satisfaction scores of 814 in 2012 and 818 in 2011.

Pharmacies with the highest levels of satisfaction

Among mail-order pharmacies, Kaiser Permanente had the highest level of satisfaction, with an overall score of 847. Humana RightSourceRx, which scored 805 points, came in second. The survey also notes the Department of Veteran Affairs pharmacy service has a high level of customer satisfaction. However, since the service is only available to veterans and their families, it was not included in the rankings.

The study was based on responses from more than 12,700 people. Factors used for ratings included:

  • Cost competitiveness
  • Prescription delivery
  • Prescription ordering
  • Customer service

The survey divided brick-and-mortar pharmacies into three segments: chain drug store pharmacies, mass merchandiser pharmacies and supermarket pharmacies. Of these, customers gave the highest satisfaction rankings to supermarket pharmacies with the segment receiving an average score of 822.

Within the segment, the following supermarket pharmacies had the highest levels of customer satisfaction.

  • Publix - 872
  • Wegmans - 861
  • Winn-Dixie/Bi-Lo - 842
  • Hy-Vee - 829
  • H.E.B. - 827

Customers more satisfied when given choice

The survey found 42 percent of customers are required by their health insurance plans to use mail-order pharmacies for repeat or maintenance medications. These customers had lower levels of satisfaction than those who freely choose to use mail orders to fill prescriptions.

Those electing to use mail-order pharmacies report satisfaction scores averaging 810. For those who are required by their medical insurance to use this option, satisfaction drops to 768. In addition, satisfaction for cost competitiveness was 773 for those choosing mail-order pharmacies compared to 714 among those required to use mail orders.

Critics of mail-order pharmacies point to the survey results as one more reason health insurance plans should not be dictating where customers fill their prescriptions. The National Community Pharmacists Association, an industry group for pharmacists working at brick-and-mortar locations, notes rising dissatisfaction with mail-order pharmacies may be contributing to the growing problem of patients failing to take their medications as directed.