Making pharmacy a better experience

by Senior Airman Elizabeth Baker
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Reading the label can save a customer a call to the pharmacy by answering important questions, such as when the prescription expires and how many refills are available. — Courtesy photo

The 86th Medical Support Squadron Pharmacy’s mission is to deliver superior patient care for warriors and families. Pharmacy personnel are trying to make care better by reducing wait times and making customers aware of available programs.

Picking up a prescription at the Ramstein Pharmacy can take up to an hour at peak times. The pharmacy staff thinks that is too long to deliver the trusted care patients need, and personnel hope to reduce wait times to an average of 15 minutes. Yet, they will only be able to reach that goal with cooperation from patients.

Master Sgt. Jonathan Strom, 86th MDSS Pharmacy flight chief, said there are several things patients can do to reduce their wait times, emphasizing that when a customer reduces their wait time, they’re reducing the wait time for others. Following are some tips.

Don’t call the pharmacy for refills.
Use the mandatory refill call-in line or Tricare online.

“Phone calls are a killer,” Strom said. “They slow us down a lot.”

Strom said the refill call-in line is a fast and easy automated system. It saves time for pharmacy personnel, the customer and other customers waiting. Once the customer calls in their prescription, they can pick it up after
2 p.m. the following day. Tricare online users can do the same, but they need to create an account before they can use the service. Tricare online also offers a variety of other options.

“Unless a patient just came from an appointment where they received a new prescription from their provider, they should only be coming here to pick up their prescriptions,” Strom said. “They should not be waiting.”

Strom said if a patient calls in their prescription using an established method, their medications should be ready and waiting for them when they arrive. This is not just for the patient’s convenience.

“If a patient leaves an appointment with their provider and they’re receiving something new, they often have to wait behind people who could have called in their prescription and been gone already,” Strom said.

Further, for the patients who call in their prescriptions through the automated line, the pharmacy staff can handle problems with the order, such as out-of-stock medications, before the patient arrives.

Strom emphasized that there are legitimate reasons to call the pharmacy.

“We encourage any calls to answer medication concerns for patients,” Strom said.

The call-in line is 06371-86-5601 or 480-5601. The TriCare online address is

Use pickup locations.

There are multiple pickup locations and availability times. Aside from the Ramstein Pharmacy at the 86th Medical Group main clinic, there is also the Script Center in the Base Exchange, which looks like a small vending machine, and at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center Pharmacy.

Using other pickup locations may be more convenient and cuts down on lines at the pharmacy.

Have a military identification card and health insurance card out and ready at the window.

“It seems small, but it slows us down if patients don’t have their identification cards ready when they come to the window,” Strom said. “If we have 50 patients per day, it adds up.”

Know how to read a prescription label.

Reading the label can save a customer a call to the pharmacy by answering important questions, such as when the prescription expires and how many refills are available. A diagram for reference is included in the photos above.

Customers should direct questions about expired prescriptions and used up refills to their primary care manager, not to the pharmacy.

Ramstein Pharmacy hours are 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday with the exception of federal holidays and authorized down days.

Cough, cold, and allergy sufferers do not need a medical appointment.

The pharmacist-run Cough, Cold and Allergy clinic operates from 8 to 9:30 a.m. daily at the Family Practice Clinic.

Over-the-counter medications are available for free on a walk-in basis.

The over-the-counter medication program is a way for customers to make sure they are getting the right over-the-counter medication at no cost.

“Over-the-counter is self-initiated care,” Strom said. “If a person needs over-the-counter medication, they can come to the Ramstein Pharmacy lobby and fill out a form that lists their symptoms and what medication they think they need. Our pharmacists will analyze it and make sure they get the right medicine.”

Individuals are generally allowed to have three items per month, Strom said.

The forms are located to the left of the lobby entrance.

Airman 1st Class Jasiah Sellars, 86th Medical Squadron Pharmacy apprentice, fills a prescription from an automated system Oct. 25 on Ramstein Air Base. Pharmacy customers can reduce their wait times by using automated systems to call in refills and by utilizing various pickup locations. — Photo by Senior Airman Elizabeth Baker