Pharmacy U

Pharmacy U panel calls on pharmacists to be better advocates

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Canadian pharmacists need to continue to promote their expanding scope of practice, offer a gold standard of service, and keep the patient at the centre of all decisions if they are to retain their reputation as one of the most respected healthcare professionals.

By Talbot Boggs

“When it comes to healthcare, we have to keep the patient at the centre of all our decision-making,” Justin Bates, vice president, pharmacy affairs at the Neighbourhood Pharmacy Association of Canada, told a Pharmacy U Toronto luncheon panel. “The definition of value is created by our patients, and we need to listen to their needs and priorities and deliver them in a cost-effective manner. The risks in getting this wrong are significant, but the opportunities enabled by getting this right are huge.”

Pharmacists continue to enjoy strong public support. According to a recent Ipsos Reid survey, pharmacists remain among the top most trusted professionals. A 2013 survey by Pfizer Canada found that 94 per cent of respondents said they trusted pharmacists, and 84 per cent believe pharmacists can improve patient health, said Gordon Cooper, Pfizer Canada’s national retail development manager. But many are not aware of the rapidly expanding roster of healthcare services pharmacists can provide.

“Advocacy of our industry and what we do is very important,” said Billy Cheung, pharmacist and regional director of pharmacy and strategic initiatives for Pharmasave Ontario. “It’s hard to get our patients to understand how and what we do and the value we provide. Our business and profession are impacted by external stakeholders all the way from government to front line workers who are not pharmacists. That’s why advocacy is essential and why we have to be at the table when decisions affecting us are being made.”

Pharmacy is a complicated business, so pharmacists need constantly to promote and explain their expanding scope of practice in language patients can understand. “People do see pharmacists as being the most accessible of healthcare professionals, and as their scope practice expands, they will take on an even greater role as the quarterbacks of patient care,” Cooper said. “We have to get patients to see us that way.”

Patient interaction is vital for success in the expanding role of pharmacists, said Tracey Phillips, pharmacist at Westport Village Pharmacy and former vice president of pharmacy at Katz Group Canada. “It’s our responsibility to find out what our patients need and use the tools we have to find solutions to those needs so they walk out the door happy and satisfied.”

Tracey LeBlanc, business development manager, professional markets, with BMO Bank of Montreal, believes the financial outlook for retail pharmacy is good. “Expenses and wages are going up, so pharmacists need to stick to what they know,” she said. “Find a niche, make sure the patient comes first, control your expenses and remember that the customer you currently have in hand is more profitable than 10 new ones.”