Complaint Argues That Walgreen’s Pharmacy Model Violates HIPAA

March 24, 2014 in News

Change to Win — a consumer advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. — has filed a complaint with the Florida Department of Health arguing that Walgreen’s “Well Experience” pharmacy model puts public health and patient health information at risk, the Tampa Bay Business Journal reports (Meinhardt, Tampa Bay Business Journal, 2/21).

Background on Pharmacy Model

In October 2013, a Change to Win report found that Walgreen’s “Well Experience” pharmacy model can lead to violations of HIPAA rules and regulations. Walgreens launched the “Well Experience” model in late 2011.

The model moves pharmacists to a work station in front of the counter. At the work stations, pharmacists can remotely view pharmacy technicians and assess prescription accuracy using pictures and video displayed on a computer screen.

According to the report:

  • HIPAA-protected information at the stations was left unattended and visible to the public at 80% of stores; and
  • Prescription medications were left unattended and within reach of customers in the pharmacy areas at 46% of stores.

The group also found that sensitive phone conversations could be overheard from the stations.

In addition, the report found that the stations increased pharmacists’ distractions, which lowered the rate of patient consultations in some stores (iHealthBeat, 10/29/13).

According to the Tampa Bay Business Journal, Walgreen is the largest chain of drug stores in Florida. Walgreen spokesperson Michael Polzin said he is unsure how many stores in the state use the pharmacy model in question, but he noted that 600 stores across the country have implemented it.

Details of Complaint

In its complaint, Change to Win — which is a coalition of labor organizations that represent both public and private workers — alleges that the component of the Well Experience model that allows pharmacists to supervise technicians and staff via a computer is a violation of a Florida law that requires direct pharmacist supervision.

In addition, the organization says that Walgreen is violating laws that require health care providers to sufficiently protect patients’ medical records.

Walgreen’s Response

Polzin said that Walgreen presented the pharmacy model to individual members and staff of Florida’s Board of Pharmacy before the company began implementing the program in the state. He also noted that other states have approved the model (Tampa Bay Business Journal, 2/21).

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