Sunday, March 30, 2014

What I Really Do for a Living

I could tell you I toil away in relative obscurity on some 15th floor loft sweatshop, complete with all the teeming masses of exploited undocumented workers, backs bent over their sewing machines piecing together the latest fashions for the New York jet set, the dusty hot air that never seems to move unless with aid of a fan, the low light rendering most peoples eyes candidates for elimination on the next evolutionary change of the species, but I won't. I do work, in relative obscurity of course, at a national chain pharmacy which is the next best thing after a sweatshop, though not by much.

In the ten years I've worked in a pharmacy, the job itself has been changed from what I thought it would be like working in a pharmacy to what I never thought it would be like working in a pharmacy. In the olden days, before progress came to the company, we filled people's prescriptions, answered their questions, ordered their medicine when they sprung a new one on us and didn't have that one in stock and generally did what everyone thought pharmacies do. Not anymore.

Now, we call you up to seven days before you'll call us so we can ask you if we can fill a prescription for you today that you're sure to call us about in seven days anyway. It's sort of a I'll pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today thing, only it takes valuable and scarce time to make a phone call to you about this of which you'll no doubt call us for eventually anyway later using even more valuable and scarce time. Yeah, that's what I thought, too.

But wait! There's more. My pharmacy uses computers to assist in the filling of prescriptions and while this makes the job easier, more accurate and better for all concerned especially in the area of making sure your doctor doesn't prescribe you something that will kill you when taken with another medicine your doctor prescribed for you last week, it also enables the tracking of metrics and statistics related to the filling of prescriptions easier as well. So, we now have certain parts of the pharmacy operations being measured and certain statistical goals must be met. There are quite a few areas that are measured which I won't expound on here mostly because I don't understand all that goes to forming the various statistics.

From all the measuring and publication of these statistical goals we get two unhappy phenomena. One is, all the goals are really mandatory minimums. That is, management gets very unhappy when your pharmacy falls short of the goals, er, I mean mandatory minimums. They have fired pharmacists and not just a few technicians either unable to meet the goals or who have given up on even trying, accepting their fate as the untimely death of a condemned murderer. The second is, we have all learned how to manipulate the prescription filling software in order to get the statistics measured by the computer to fall in the endzone. So, the bosses are happy, though completely ignorant of what's  really going on and maybe they do know but don't care since the numbers are right where they should be. A happy ending for all concerned.

So, in the end, my job has now become a manipulator of computer collected performance data so that the data will reflect a healthy business. We just fill prescriptions as an incidental sideline.


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