In an era when health care consumerism is being touted as a game-changer for employer-sponsored benefits, offering employees a variety of choices when it comes to how and where they fill their drug prescriptions is an important satisfaction driver.

Rick Johnson, senior director of the health care practice at J.D. Power, suggests plan sponsors look at three key areas when designing their pharmacy benefit plans.

First, ensure pharmacies in the network, whether traditional brick-and-mortar pharmacies or mail-order pharmacies, offer easy access to automatic refills. “Anything that can be done to make sure folks don’t run out of their prescriptions – meaning they don’t run out of pills before the next batch comes – drives employee satisfaction,” he says.

Second, take advantage of the wide range of health care services some pharmacies now offer. “There’s a huge increase in the number of pharmacies that are offering some sort of walk-in clinic and some are also offering different types of vaccines,” says Johnson. “And some employers that have flu shot programs have stipulations that you’re not allowed to go to a [certain] pharmacy or a walk-in clinic associated with a pharmacy. I would say that’s a mistake. These walk-in clinics in pharmacies are often much closer to people’s homes, the hours may be different and there’s really no reason why they should be excluded.”

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And, third, ensure that whatever channel employees use, that they have consistent, quick access to the pharmacist and/or the pharmacist’s staff. “The more people get a chance to dialogue with the pharmacist and their staff about the side effects of a medication or how to take it properly,” the higher their satisfaction with their benefits will be, says Johnson.

In fact, pharmacist and staff interactions with customers are increasingly important drivers of satisfaction for both brick-and-mortar as well as mail-order pharmacies, according to the J.D. Power 2014 U.S. Pharmacy Study released today.

Overall satisfaction with chain drug store, supermarket and mail-order pharmacies increased in 2014, with supermarket pharmacies outranking the other two channels. Supermarket pharmacies scored 843 on the 1,000-point scale (up eight points from 2013), while chain drug stores ranked 840 (up 12 points) and mail-order pharmacies ranked 822 (up 25 points). Mass merchandiser pharmacies, meanwhile, ranked 830, relatively unchanged from last year.

Among brick-and-mortar pharmacies, Good Neighbor Pharmacy (884) ranks highest in the chain drug store segment; Sam’s Club (865) ranks highest in the mass merchandiser segment; and Publix (886) ranks highest in the supermarket segment. In the mail-order segment, Kaiser Permanente Mail Pharmacy (865) ranks highest.

Also see: How to help alleviate specialty Rx costs

The 2014 U.S. Pharmacy Study is based on responses from 13,951 pharmacy customers who filled a new prescription or refilled a prescription during the three months prior to the survey period.

Customer satisfaction with brick-and-mortar pharmacies is measured across five factors: prescription ordering; store; cost competitiveness; non-pharmacist staff; and pharmacist. Satisfaction with mail-order pharmacies is measured across four factors: cost competitiveness; prescription delivery; prescription ordering process; and customer service experience.

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