By donalee Moulton
Canada’s next generation of pharmacists is learning about the profession and the business of pharmacy. That requires understanding how to build customer loyalty and enhance adherence. David Edwards, Hallman Director at the School of Pharmacy and Associate Dean with the Faculty of Science at University of Waterloo, spoke with Pharmacy Business about preparing students to provide the service their patients need – and expect.
Customer loyalty leads to better health outcomes and better business. What do you say to students about this?
Building patient loyalty is a natural follow-on from providing them with the service they want to receive. Pharmacists, and pharmacists in training, see themselves as healthcare providers. We want people to come back because they value our professional services. That builds deep loyalty. It is very different from waiving fees or putting a product on sale, which is short term. The best way to build long-term
relationships with patients is by delivering the advice and medication management services that our patients need.
What is essential for students to grasp about customer loyalty so they can start to build strong relationships as soon as they are in practice?
Students realize now more than ever the importance of having strong relationships
with patients. Expanded scope of practice is business as usual for today’s graduates and they are ready to hit the ground running upon graduation. At Waterloo, the co-op program enables students to become actively involved in providing services during their education. They get to see what works and what doesn’t. Then they share these experiences with classmates, which is a powerful learning tool.
Equally vital is adherence. How are students trained to ensure adherence? Is it ingrained that this is part of their role as pharmacists?
Techniques, such as motivational interviewing and health coaching , happen at a classroom level and our students get to apply what they have learned during co-op placements and clinical rotations. One of the biggest challenges for pharmacists is figuring out how to manage workflow in order to find time to interact with patients and find out why a patient is not adherent. We need to address the root cause. I’m very excited about the appointment-based model. When patients just show up randomly, you have to be lucky to have the time to meet with them. All other health professions book appointments with patients and the ABM is long overdue in pharmacy. It’s really the only way to effectively integrate comprehensive medication management with the dispensing role.
How do you help to instill a patient-centred philosophy in the pharmacists of tomorrow?
That has always been a key component of pharmacy education and will continue to be. Providing the best possible service is the best way to earn the trust of patients. Patients can go elsewhere, and students understand that in today’s competitive market they must go above and beyond to keep patients and to help them optimize health outcomes.
Pharmacy schools are training pharmacists to take on new roles. Are improving adherence and building customer loyalty central to those new roles?
Patients see pharmacists up to eight times more often than they see their physician. That is a tremendous opportunity to build a long-term relationship. We are also encouraging charging for professional services. Pharmacists shouldn’t be afraid to ask patients to pay out of pocket. Expanded scope of practice gives us so many more opportunities but not all of these services are adequately funded by governments or other payors.
Leaders in Pharmacy, including this independently written article, is supported by Pfizer Canada Inc.