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Stop ordering chips at the rx drive-thru window

Posted by Margaret Scavotto, JD, CHC on 6/15/21 9:30 AM

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This blog was also posted on The Compliance & Ethics Blog, the national compliance blog published by the Health Care Compliance Association and the Society of Corporate Compliance & Ethics.

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Not too long ago, I stopped at the pharmacy drive-up window to pick up a prescription. While patiently waiting in her car seat for me to complete the transaction, my preschooler looked at the pharmacy technician behind the window and said: “I would like chips, please.” She thought we were at the OTHER drive-up window – the one belonging to Breadco (in St. Louis, we call Panera “Breadco.” It originated in our town, and we will not adapt to its new name). At Breadco, we order sandwiches with “chips, please.” The pharmacy employee was very nice – and explained that, as a pharmacy employee, she cannot provide chips at the drive-up window.

This got me thinking: Of course you can’t get chips at a prescription pick-up window. Not all stores are the same. Not all drive-up window personnel do the same things. This is an honest mistake for a preschooler. It’s also a mistake in business and one that happens far too often. Are we asking the right people to do the right things?

So often I talk with compliance personnel who never sought to work in compliance. They already had a role, and the boss assigned compliance as an additional task. Or assigned compliance audits, or training. This tends to happen in smaller providers – but it happens often. Not all healthcare jobs are the same, and not all people are the same. Isn’t telling the Director of Nursing she is also in charge of compliance a bit like asking the pharmacy tech for chips?    

It depends. Sometimes the Director of Nursing is the best person for the compliance job – and he or she will thrive in that role. But sometimes this is doomed to fail. Are we asking the right people to do the right things? Instead of assuming that all people in healthcare can and should take on essential compliance roles that need to get done, shouldn’t we ask: “Our compliance effort needs more support. Can you think of ways you can help?” And then listen. The role of the leader is to get the right person for the job. We might need to ask multiple people these questions, and put together a team. It is more likely to be a team of people committed to the effort.

Otherwise, we end up with employees who feel like they are working two completely different drive-up windows at the same time. With a more thoughtful process, we can find a better solution for the long term.

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