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Pharmacy Drive-Thru Advantages and Best Practices

Last updated May 20, 2022 | Pharmacy Management

For over 30 years, drive-thrus have given pharmacies the advantage of efficient services. While the pharmacy drive-thru was invented by Calvin Michael Burton in 1951, the trend wasn’t popularized until 1991, when the drug chain, Walgreens,  opened its first drive-thru location. Originally meant to speed up prescription dispensing, drive-thrus became a boon to pharmacies for COVID-19 testing at the height of the pandemic. While the safety protocols have lessened with widespread COVID-19 vaccinations, there is still a growing desire for contact-less and convenient services such as drive-thru options. Below, we have compiled the advantages and best practices of pharmacy drive-thrus to help you make the most of yours!

Advantages of Pharmacy Drive-Thrus

In recent years, many healthcare facilities have been faced with the challenge of providing personalized, high-touch care from a distance. The pandemic forced pharmacies to limit in-person services and many focused on contactless methods such as curbside pickup, mail order, and delivery. In addition to improved safety, these services also offer conveniences for patients that will be desired beyond COVID-19. 

Drive-thrus offer an efficient alternative to curbside and delivery methods with a dedicated, streamlined space for prescription pickups. The main advantages include:

  • Improved medication adherence rates.
  • Increased safety for both patients and pharmacy staff in the event of another wave of COVID-19.
  • Opens up streamlined service offering alongside other alternative prescription delivery methods.
  • Provides service with limited contact for those that would still like to keep their distance. 

Best Practices for Pharmacy Drive Thrus

Amid quarantines and state-wide restrictions, drive-thrus were instrumental in keeping pharmacy businesses open and helping them provide an effective pandemic response. With a continued desire for limited-contact services, drive-thrus can continue to be a value-add for pharmacies long-term. 

Here are some best practices to keep in mind as you set up your pharmacy drive-thru.

Promote Safe & Convenient Services


social distancing

Suggest and promote your drive-thru at every opportunity to promote safe services. Even beyond the peak of the pandemic, drive thrus provide a safer option for at-risk patients with compromised immune systems. Drive thrus also offer a more convenient options for patients with disabilities, small children, or those that are simply too busy to come inside.

Marketing your drive-thru service consistently can remind patients there is safe and easy way to pick-up their prescriptions, thus increasing medication adherence.

Create Clear Signage

poster icon

Make sure your outdoor signage for curbside pickup and drive-thrus are large and easy to read with pharmacy contact information. Include clear and easy instructions for directions, parking, and any other requirements or directions.

Your drive-thru is also a marketing opportunity to promote other services you offer. Consider creating additional signage for things like flu shot reminders, nutrient depletion counseling, or remind customers to download and utilize your mobile app to refill prescriptions.  

Leverage Your Technology


Let patients know about your drive-thru on every communication and marketing channel you use. For example you can record an automated message for your voicemail or on hold message. You might also consider automated text and outbound calls reminding patients of your drive-thru option.

You should also make sure your website mentions your drive-thru in your services to remind existing patients and also potentially bring in new patients searching for pharmacies with drive thru services. 

Implement Digital Tools to Increase Your Efficiency


Drive-thrus are sometimes subject to processing delays, rushed customer service, and dispensing errors if staff are distracted by multiple duties. Find ways to streamline the drive-thru workflow with digital tools that help you keep patients informed while managing prescription pickups and processing efficiently. Consider tools and automations that reduce interruptions and allow your team to focus on the customer they are serving in the drive thru. 

Safe Communication for Your Pharmacy Drive-Thru With Digital Tools

To make the most of your pharmacy drive-thru offering, it’s important to use tools that maximize patient communication while keeping contact minimal.

Patient Engagement Platform

Digital Pharmacist’s Patient Engagement Platform (PEP) offers an all-in-one solution for digital pharmacy-patient communication. Eliminating the need for phone calls and in-store pickups, the PEP helps your pharmacy operate smoothly and offer quality patient care and customer service.

Ways the PEP can support your pharmacy drive-thru:

  • Simplified communication. With the PEP’s bulk and targeted messaging capabilities, you can message patients directly about their pickup orders and send drive-thru directions straight to their phones. Our customized templates also allow you to create your own messages like order is ready, waiting list updates, or drive-thru delays.
  • Secure information-sharing. Our HIPAA-compliant platform makes it easy to ask and answer questions securely and share protected health information, such as insurance information. Speed up the pickup process with a system that allows you to request information in a timely manner.
  • Streamline orders and pickups. Send targeted, timed notifications to patients, reminding them of pickups and appointments. You can also leverage messaging to ask patients about their OTC and health product needs and add them to their drive-thru order to increase pharmacy business.

Photo Credit: 209544085 © Kristen Prahl | Dreamstime.com


Blog originally published May 2021 | Updated May 2022

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