Sunday, August 24, 2014

Pharmacists: Fostering & Building Relationships Beyond The Counter…/.



Pharmacists: Fostering & Building Relationships Beyond The Counter…/.

The proverbial counter delineates the professional jurisdiction of pharmacists & Pharmacy technicians alike. It encapsulates the body of knowledge of pharmaceuticals & how they interact with the general society. The knowledge contained within this physical boundaries is shared with patrons via formal consultation sessions, telephonic interaction with other healthcare practitioners, and through serving as preceptors to pharmacy students, to mention but a few. With the incursion of technology into many a discipline in the 21st century, the practice of pharmacy is not spared. Our patients are much smarter than in previous decades. With technology, some patients are already harmed with the rudimentary knowledge of their disease state conditions and the pharmaceutical care plan available. The onus, of course, lies on the pharmacists’ shoulder to ensure these patients receive the right information regarding their medication regimen. The local community pharmacist is the most accessible member of the healthcare delivery team, hence, we sometimes are in the frontline to observe medical conditions where these patients are either recommended OTC products or referred to their PCP, Primary Care Provider, as deemed necessary. On the other hand, the same pharmacist may be the last frontier the patient encounters just before exiting the healthcare system with their prescribed medications. The pharmacist is uniquely placed within the continuum of care spectrum to impact the patients../
With this said, it is important to ensure as pharmacists we are continually relevant in our practice environments. This piece of work will focus on the position of a community pharmacist, I will highlight several ways to foster & build relationship with our patients

Courteous & Professional
It is a little known fact a Pharmacist is the authority & custodial on information regarding medication safe use. But that does not preclude us from treating our patients with utmost courtesy & dignity. We don’t want to communicate with our patients from a position of authority that makes them feel unimportant. The moment a patient walks through your door, they have effectively exercised a choice in your favor to do business with you. These patients have needs and requirements that need to be met in order to continue to enjoy their patronage. The need they have is the need for pharmaceutical care, while one of the major requirements is to be treated with dignity & respect. Being courteous is a giving in many a business environment in today’s world. You want to make your patients feel comfortable talking to you by ensuring to use appropriate language. You don’t want to use technical jargons that will leave the patient more confused. It is very important for us as pharmacist to see the opportunity to serve our community as a privilege. We need the patients more than they need us.

Show Empathy
Empathy is the ability to mutually experience the thoughts, emotions, and direct experience of others. It is easy to sympathize with patients, which is nothing more than a feeling of care and understanding, but when we can put ourselves in their shoes and feel their feelings, then we connect with them on a higher level.  Why is this important you ask? A published article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal states, it is proven that showing clinical empathy to patients   can improve their satisfaction of care, motivate them to stick to regimen, and lower drastically the number of customer dissatisfaction.

Expanded Immunization Initiative
The expanded role of pharmacists with respect to immunization is a very vital tool with which we bond further with our communities. Our patients are beginning to see the value-add this initiative provides. Pharmacists are now seen to be in the vanguard of efforts to bring about improved access to healthcare and driving down the cost of healthcare for our patients. In the past you had to make an appointment at you doctor’s office to get vaccinated against the flu virus. Now, you have expanded access to this without an appointment. With years behind us as immunizers, it further solidifies our relationship with the communities we serve. This relationship will go a long way in helping us remove barriers naturally inherent in immunization programs Once again it’s a privilege that should be honored & cherished and not taken for granted.

Bending Over Backwards
I had a pleasure of serving a young sophomore lady with a prescription for a branded acne medication recently, she looked dejected and despondent as she walked into my store. Apparently, she wasn’t happy with the news she got from my competitor across the road {literarily speaking, I have a competitor across the road}. The pharmacist had told her the copay of the medication in question was going to be $169 following 3rd party adjudication. Needless to say, she recovered her script and crossed the road. She came into my store to enquire how much it would cost. Lo and behold, the copay was the same. But the differentiating factor was the service she got. Not only did I adjudicate the claim the same way the other pharmacist did, I reached out for my smart phone and logged onto the pharmaceutical company’s website. I was able to download an electronic coupon {in real time} for the medication, the copayment was reduced to $35. She was obviously excited and didn’t know accessing the internet could provide such assistance! She transferred all her scripts to my store by the conclusion of the visit. I am sure a lot of pharmacists do this on a daily basis but don’t get thanked for it because the patients did not know. I know how many times I have had to call a doctor back to get an alternate & similarly effective medicine because the copay on the medication prescribed is $50. Most times these efforts go unnoticed and unappreciated. It is high time we allowed our patients to recognize all our efforts to ensure they stay adherent and compliant.

Respect for Patients Time
A lot of our patients need to squeeze a visit to the pharmacy within their already busy schedule, so that extra 10 minute wait might not augur well for them. It is imperative to set appropriate pick up time expectation with our customers. Patients always appreciate it when they can drop off and pick up within the same single visit. On occasions where this is not possible, we need to strive to ensure we function within the confines of our patient’s schedule. It is not always okay for them to come back tomorrow. Abiding by these guidelines will ensure we develop a heathy relationship with our patients

Community outreach initiatives.
 We have organized several programs to teach and help patients on their path to achieving better healthcare outcome. Such programs include Smoking Cessation Assistance (CSA), brown bag review, community immunization campaigns, free diabetes meeting to teach patients on how to use blood sugar monitors and correct insulin dosing techniques. These programs will no doubt help us to better connect with our patients and foster building a relationship beyond the counter with the communities we serve…./.

Dr. Leke Agbejule

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