Pharmacy U

Leaders in Pharmacy 2019: Small steps translate into big actions for patient care


by donalee Moulton


Winston Churchill—British politician, army officer and leader extraordinaire—would fit in well with the individuals selected as the 2019 Leaders in Pharmacy. As Britain’s prime minister during World War II, it was Churchill who wrote, “I never ‘worry’ about action, but only about inaction.”

the 11 men and women honored as this year’s Leaders in Pharmacy share the same philosophy—and commitment to putting that philosophy into practice. Discussion, reflection and contemplation are important, but the profession, the healthcare system and patient outcomes improve only when we take action on many fronts. Indeed, the focus of the 2019 leaders is on taking action to enhance value for patients.

“The individuals you will read about here are experts in their field – and in making change a reality for the betterment of their patients and their profession. That is a foundation that benefits the entire health system,” says Rhonda O’Gallagher, Vice-President, Corporate Affairs, at Pfizer Canada, which has sponsored the Leaders in Pharmacy initiative since its inception in 2013.

The 2019 leaders, who come from community pharmacy, academia, professional organizations and the corporate sector, agree on the importance – the critical importance—of building strong, ongoing relationships with patients. This leads to a greater understanding of objectives and next steps, which in turn translates into optimal outcomes for both patients and the healthcare system.

Such relationships do not happen without time, effort and action, the leaders stress. Successful relationships call for individuals who are engaging, empathetic and caring, and who put the patient first. In part, these attributes are innate, but they can be learned and enhanced. That, of course, requires taking steps to improve service, interaction, communication and processes. It also requires thinking beyond what will work for a single individual.

“A strong and effective health system is patient-centred. As the most accessible health professionals, front-line pharmacists are in a pivotal position. They can have daily interactions and an ongoing opportunity to understand—and meet—the diverse needs of their patients,” says O’Gallagher.

The trust patients place in their pharmacists must be more than acknowledged and appreciated, this year’s leaders note. It must be repaid. That two-way relationship is built on the actions pharmacists take to assist patients both individually, for example through medication reviews and one-on-one counselling, and collectively, through such initiatives as store design, staff training and enhanced service offerings. The onus is on pharmacists to move forward, transform ideas into reality, and work to the full scope of their practice.

At the organizational level, our leaders are working harder than ever to build and sustain partnerships with government, private payors, drug companies, and other healthcare professions. One of their key messages: the role of pharmacists today is not the role of pharmacists tomorrow. The future is bright with opportunity. By working with partners representing all sectors of health care, pharmacy organizations can more fully demonstrate the value pharmacists can bring to patient care and to the healthcare system.

“One of the keys to sustaining our health system is collaboration,” says O’Gallagher. “At Pfizer, we work closely with the pharmacy profession to enhance patient care. We see first-hand how pharmacists improve patient outcomes and how much trust patients put in their pharmacist.”

While many pharmacists will welcome and work for change within the healthcare system, starting with their patients, such change can be unsettling. As one leader notes, “It is vital that we capitalize on the skill sets of each and every provider in the health system. That will require giving up proprietary interests.”

Taking action to enrich pharmacists’ value to patients does not, however, mean starting from scratch, or increasing workload. Small steps can be critical, and relatively easy to take. One leader recommends making one small change a day in areas such as workflow, patient interactions, assessing outcomes, and so on.

Such small actions, as Winston Churchill well knew, will ultimately have a huge impact.

Leaders in Pharmacy, including this independently written article, is supported by Pfizer Canada Inc.

The article appeared originally in the January issue of Pharmacy Practice + Business and Canadian Healthcare Network.