Customer satisfaction with mail-order pharmacies is dropping

JD Power survey ranks mail-order and brick-and-mortar pharmacies

Customer satisfaction with mail-order pharmacies is waning, while satisfaction among customers who use brick-and-mortar pharmacies to fill prescriptions is holding steady, according a consumer survey from the J.D. Power and Associates 2012 U.S. Pharmacy Study.

Satisfaction with mail-order pharmacies averaged 792 points (on a 1,000 point scale) in 2012, compared with 806 in 2011. Satisfaction with brick-and-mortar pharmacies, which include chain drug stores, supermarkets and mass merchandisers, averaged 814 points in this year’s study, down four points from last year’s average.

"The erosion in customer satisfaction with mail-order pharmacies may foretell challenges to their business model, as prior to 2011 customer satisfaction was more equivalent to the brick-and-mortar experience," said Rick Millard, senior director of the healthcare practice at J.D. Power (Westlake Village, CA). "Acceptance of mail-order programs grew by offering customers convenience and lower costs. While this has been a successful approach, the mail-order business needs to continue to adapt to meet customers' increasing expectations."

But the takeaway isn’t that brick-and-mortar pharmacies are better at serving their customers. Among patients who choose to use a mail-order pharmacy, customer satisfaction is on par with brick-and-mortar pharmacies. The satisfaction levels drop when patients are forced to use mail order to fill prescriptions (768 points), suggesting that customer choice has an impact on satisfaction.

According to the study, the number of customers who are required to use mail ordering for repeat or maintenance prescriptions increased slightly, from 41% in 2011 to 42% in 2012.

The study, in its sixth year, looked at a variety of factors to determine overall satisfaction. For mail-order pharmacies, they included cost competitiveness, prescription delivery, prescription ordering and customer service. For brick-and-mortar pharmacies, the factors were prescription ordering and pick-up process, store, cost competitiveness, non-pharmacist staff and pharmacist.

The survey found that among customers of brick-and-mortar pharmacies, 37% were asked by the pharmacy staff if they wanted to speak with a pharmacist, a slight increase from last year’s 35%. But only 23% of customers ended up speaking with a pharmacist in person.

Among the top performers were McKesson’s Health Mart, which received the highest ranking of any chain drug store, Publix, which topped the list of grocery store pharmacies, and Kaiser Permanente Pharmacy, which was first among mail-order pharmacies.

RANKING OF TOP 20 PHARMACIES

PHARMACY

CATEGORY

SCORE

Publix

Grocery Store

872

Health Mart (McKesson)

Chain Drug Store

848

Kaiser Permanente Mail

Mail-order

847

Good Neighbor Pharmacy

(AmerisourceBergen)

Chain Drug Store

843

The Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy

(Cardinal Health)

Chain Drug Store

843

Sam's Club

Mass Merchandiser

838

Target

Mass Merchandiser

835

Costco

Mass Merchandiser

819

Kroger

Grocery Store

810

Humana RightSourceRx

Mail-order

805

Walgreens

Chain Drug Store

804

Kmart

Mass Merchandiser

803

Rite Aid

Chain Drug Store

798

Walmart

Mass Merchandiser

782

CVS/Pharmacy

Chain Drug Store

780

Medco*

Mail-order

780

Walmart Pharmacy Mail Services

Mail-order

778

Express Scripts*

Mail-order

775

Walgreens Mail Service

Mail-order

770

Caremark

Mail-order

763

*Merged during 2012. Source: JD Power