Walgreens will stop judging its pharmacy staff by how fast they work

Walgreens will no longer evaluate its pharmacy employees based on speed and other metrics amid complaints from pharmacists across the industry that the pressure to meet goals such as the number of prescriptions filled is driving at dangerous mistakes and burnout.

Walgreens, the nation’s second-largest drugstore chain, announced on Wednesday that it was eliminating “task-based metrics” from performance reviews to allow its pharmacy staff to “put an even greater emphasis on patient care.” patient”. They will now be evaluated “only on behaviors that best support patient care and improve the patient experience,” Walgreens said in a press release.

A spokesperson declined to provide specific examples of the measures Walgreens is eliminating.

For years, pharmacists and pharmacy technicians across the country have been sounding the alarm about working conditions and understaffing, which they say increases the risk of errors in the execution of prescriptions. The problems have worsened during the coronavirus pandemic, many workers say, as pharmacies have become key locations for Covid-19 testing and vaccinations.

NBC News Stories published last year documented the concerns of dozens of pharmacists and technicians in the industry. They described already high workloads which have increased dramatically, while many stores have lost employees and struggled to fill positions, adding to stress and burnout and increasing their concerns about serious medication errors.

One of the most frequently cited issues at drugstore chains, including Walgreens, was the pressure to meet metrics such as weekly goals for the number of prescriptions filled, patient calls and vaccinations given.

The American Pharmacist Association called Walgreens’ announcement “a step in the right direction” and encouraged other pharmacies to do the same.

“This addresses one of the top concerns expressed by pharmacists in the pharmacy workplace,” said Ilsa Bernstein, interim CEO of the business group. “These measures are a key factor contributing to pharmacist burnout and stress.”

Walgreens and other retail pharmacies have struggled to staff shortage since the start of the pandemic. The shortages have led to long waits for medicines, shorter hours and even closed stores at the end of last year.

In response, Walgreens, which employs more than 24,000 pharmacists and even more technicians, said it had begun investing more in its pharmacy staff by raising base pay and bonuses and hiring thousands more. . It has invested more than $190 million in pharmacy staffing this year, and it plans to invest even more next year, according to a press release. Its decision to no longer assess pharmacy workers based on “task-based measures” builds on that investment, the company said.

“We are proud to take a strong position in the industry with this step, one we are taking because of feedback from members of our pharmacy team and also as part of our commitment to pharmacy quality and patient care. patients,” said Holly May, the director. Vice President and Global Chief Human Resources Officer of Walgreens parent company, Walgreens Boots Alliance.

Pharmacies are regulated by state boards, and rules about working conditions differ from state to state. The pandemic – and the problems it has brought – has prompted a number of states to take action to improve working conditions.

Last year, California passed a bill co-sponsored by its state pharmacists association which “prohibited the practice of imposing quotas intended to increase corporate profit margins on the backs of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians,” according to the association. Other states have begun asking workers about their workloads and concerns. The Ohio State Board of Pharmacy found last year that about half of pharmacists in the state – the seventh largest in the nation – said they did not have enough time to complete their work safely.

The Ohio board issued a draft rule this month that, when finalized, would prevent all pharmacies in the state from using quotas as employee performance measures. Walgreens and the drugstore chain trade group opposed the council’s efforts to eliminate the measures.

“We are pleased that Walgreens has chosen to address this important issue which is negatively impacting pharmacist workloads,” said Cameron McNamee, director of policy and communications for the board. “It appears this may address the issues raised by Ohio pharmacists that we are attempting to address in our proposed rule. However, the proof will be in the implementation of the policy.

CORRECTION (October 28, 12:12 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article misrepresented the co-sponsor of the California quota bill. It was the California Pharmacists Association, not the California State Board of Pharmacy.

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