Lupin 2023

‘Patient-first’ pharmacists have the greatest health impact

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When people have questions and concerns about their health, they often turn first to their community pharmacist, especially given today’s overburdened health care system and physician shortages. In fact, pharmacists across the country are playing an increasingly critical role in the nation’s health.

A recent study found that people find it easier and simpler to access care through their pharmacy. Chain store pharmacists can be an important resource beyond filling prescriptions by serving as health coaches, care coordinators and counselors for patients, and for other health care professionals by offering drug utilization review and ensuring medication compliance to mitigate long-term complications due to disease progression. For many patients, this level of pharmacist participation can lead to positive behavior change, improved patient engagement, higher quality of life and an overall better patient experience.

The nation’s top drug chains should strive to leverage this important role to improve upon traditional methods and find innovative approaches to improving communication with patients. Toward that end, a patient-first approach offers patients a higher level of personalized service, which can be especially effective for patients with rare diseases who often feel marginalized and isolated by their disease.

Patient-first pharmacy services

The typical pharmacist provides critical information to patients about their medications, makes recommendations on over-the-counter products and advises patients on how to best manage chronic health conditions with the medications their physicians have prescribed. They play a pivotal role in follow-up care, ensuring there are no disruptions in getting patients the medications they need in a timely manner, and help to address potential issues in a way that optimizes the entire care process.

Rather than simply meeting daily quotas, a patient-first approach takes pharmacy services to the next level. Pharmacists in the drug store setting are encouraged to use their knowledge about specific diseases and medications to help manage and improve health outcomes for patients who need the most guidance. They can also play a more proactive role in addressing barriers to care, such as issues related to insurance coverage, misdiagnosis and lack of streamlined information.

With the right combination of technology, optimized work flow and the “human touch,” a patient-first approach means pharmacists have more time for face-to-face interaction with their patients. When pharmacists take a patient-first approach and gain in-depth knowledge on a particular rare disease, they are better able to assist physicians and specialists by providing additional insight, enhance treatment, and bring greater focus to overcoming communication hurdles.

Education and counseling

Education serves as the cornerstone of a patient-first approach, for both providers and patients. The more knowledge a patient has about their disease state, the more optimized their treatment and the greater their outcomes and quality of life. This is where patient-first pharmacists can encourage solid, long-lasting relationships based on compassion.

A patient-first approach makes it possible to provide support, communicate insights, share personal stories and develop the kind of relationships that uplift both pharmacist and patient. In many cases, it can grow into a “family” environment, which can make a significant and positive impact on patients, especially for those in rare disease communities.

For pharmacy professionals, a patient-first organizational culture can better address patients’ immediate and long-term needs and engage them every step of the way, while gaining insights for better managing the patient experience.

Patient-first patient management services can help manage costs, improve adherence and close gaps in care for patients, and leverage clinical intelligence and behavioral insights to identify plan members experiencing suboptimal pharmacy care. Team pharmacists can then review current treatment and identify gaps in care or issues with medication adherence.

Counseling can be conducted on the phone with a pharmacist or face-to-face, depending on patient preference. As the needs of their patients change, finding new approaches and forging partnerships with patient-first management teams can help patients make informed decisions about their pharmacy, health and wellness needs. When counseling expands to encompass a wider number of rare diseases, the result is better outcomes for more patients.

Ultimately, a patient-first pharmacist prioritizes the needs of each patient to ensure they can achieve the best possible health outcome. It’s about helping patients and continually supporting them from the first script and across the entire patient journey.

Brandon Salke is pharmacist-in-charge at Optime Care. Hannah Morgan is a team pharmacist for the company.

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