Pharmacy work is complex. Filling a prescription is more than just putting pills in a bottle or slapping a label on a box. It consists of several steps, that urgently require your undivided attention. No pressure, right?
As an independent pharmacist, you are likely already a seasoned pro when it comes to workflow and patient care. You have your own system and you should absolutely stick to it.
But patient care doesn’t stop after you fill the prescriptions or once the receipt prints. Patient care is an around-the-clock endeavor that involves more than medicine.
That’s where patient counseling comes in. It is an essential part of patient care that ensures the patient knows just exactly what they’re taking.
Here are some tips to take your patient counseling skills to the next level.
One of the biggest gripes patients have with pharmacies overall is the long wait times. No one likes to stay in lines (unless it’s for a rollercoaster, of course), especially if they’re trying to get home after a long day at work.
Convenience is the ultimate pull factor for patients. The easier you make the patient experience, the more likely they will become a returning patient.
Patient counseling can make or break the patient experience. You can have the most efficient, slickest, and quickest pharmacy workflow, only for a slow patient consultation to muddy the whole experience.
Think of the fill and point of sale process as the beginning of a sports play. The patient counseling experience is the payoff, the slam dunk after your pharmacy trail a patient care blaze of glory.
Your patient’s time is extremely valuable, so make sure your pharmacy’s workflow and patient counseling is efficient and effective.
The main objective of patient counseling is to effectively inform your patient about the medication they’re taking. Essentially, you are giving them a crash course about that medication and how it plays into their health journey.
It sounds like a lot to wrap their head around — and it is. Nevertheless, clear and concise patient counseling is part of the job.
Strike the right balance between brevity and being informative. You can tell them what the medication is for, how often the patient needs to take it (per doctor’s instructions), and some relevant side effects.
For example, patients who are taking the cholesterol medication simvastatin cannot, under any circumstances, drink grapefruit juice. Doing so results in potentially extreme reactions, including death.
This is an extreme but relevant example of what to include in your patient counseling routine.
Another essential element of the art of patient counseling is patient privacy. It is always a touchy subject and rightfully so: patients put a large amount of trust in you and your independent pharmacy.
They trust you with their health and sensitive health information. The patient-pharmacist relationship is sacred — or a legally binding one at the very least.
Be mindful of your surroundings when giving a patient consultation. Some independent pharmacies have a small area dedicated to patient counseling. Others have a behind-closed-doors area to ensure maximum patient privacy.
In either situation, make sure you’re speaking at a reasonable volume where your patient can hear you but not others.
PioneerRx’s Counseling App enhances patient counseling and further ensures privacy. The mobile app allows you and other independent pharmacists to give consultations outside the pharmacy counter.
The app becomes extremely helpful when holding wellness events like vaccine clinics. Pharmacy work goes well beyond the counter. Let the Counseling App take your patient counseling to the (literal) next level.
Patient counseling is a two-way street. We’ve spent much of this blog on how you can master the art of patient counseling.
While there’s a dissertation-worthy amount of ways to master patient counseling, it’s time to look at the other side of the equation: the patients themselves.
At the end of the day, it is the patients who are at the helm of their health journeys. Make sure they are internalizing the information you’re giving them. While it is your job to counsel them, make sure they truly understand what you’re saying.
Then answer their questions. Listen to their concerns about a particular medication. Though it might take extra time, listening to your patient will strengthen their relationship with your independent pharmacy.
At one point, your independent pharmacy will be the one-stop shop for almost all your patient’s health needs. Just ask Tim Mitchell of Mitchell’s Drug Stores:
“Sometimes people will come up to me asking who I recommend paving their driveway,” Tim says. “Others have asked me if I know anyone who can roof their house or trim their trees. It sounds funny but having those one-on-one conversations means a lot to me.”
Every medication serves its own function. You have your blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and allergy medications, all serving the same patient in different ways.
As such, it’s important to know how and why your patients are taking the medications they’re taking. In other words, you need to know how a certain medication works within their respective health journeys.
You’re taking care of the whole patient, not just one aspect of them. Their health journey is an expansive, wide-ranging one full of complexities. Take a look at your patient’s profile and see if they are taking the medication as prescribed.
Patient adherence plays a huge role in knowing the context. Bad adherence results in worse general health, fogging up the path along their health journey. Promoting good patient adherence will influence how you approach patient counseling.
Every medication works differently for different people, so brush up on your patient’s fill history before you talk to them. A quick review goes a long way in promoting general health.
Patient counseling is the cherry on top of patient care. And that cherry can be the deciding factor of whether or not your patient stays with your independent pharmacy.
Mastering the art of patient counseling is essential to your independent pharmacy’s success. It also strengthens your relationship with your patients, as they trust you to guide them through their health journey.
Whether it’s using PioneerRx’s Counseling App, answering patient questions, or mastering the art of brevity, use this time to take your patient counseling skills to the next level. Your patients and community will thank you for it.