Esmail Merani, who is from a family of pharmacists, believes that connecting with patients is central to the services pharmacists deliver.
Education: Robert Gordon University, Scotland (Pharmacy), Shenandoah University, Virginia (Doctor of Pharmacy)
Pharmacist-owner, Carleton Place IDA Drug Mart, Ottawa
Past president, Ontario College of Pharmacists
Esmail Merani, who is from a family of pharmacists, believes that connecting with patients is central to the services pharmacists deliver. He has a particular connection with his diabetes patients. “This is a focus for me,” he says. “All our pharmacists have training in this area. I know we make a difference.”
What are the biggest challenges facing pharmacists in Canada today? Pharmacists are comfortable with licking, sticking and pouring. We need to step outside our comfort zone. Too often we see ourselves as solely dispensers, but that is not an option anymore. We need to provide services that our community needs. That is also good for business.
What else can pharmacists do to address these challenges? Having at least one specialty is key. This differentiates you from the competition and it enhances your relationship with patients—they see the value you bring to their lives and to the healthcare system. I graduated in the last century. I also graduated in this century. Our profession has not remained static. You need to keep up. Continuing your education is not an option. It is essential.
How should pharmacists show patients, government and third parties that they add value to the health system? Government gave us the opportunity to do medication checks. This was helpful to patients, to the profession and to the health system. Now, of course, we are doing even more. When government can no longer provide a service, it is starting to realize perhaps pharmacists can. We are so accessible and can become even more so. It is important to build relationships with doctors and other healthcare providers. The system generally needs to know what pharmacists are capable of. It’s not just about providing a service. It’s also about following up and identifying issues before they escalate.
Moving forward, how will pharmacists add value in new and novel ways? We must start by getting to know the physicians in the areas we serve. Collaboration must be more than a buzzword. We should be using social media to get the word out and let people know the services we have to offer. Substantive change, of course, depends on government. Right now in Ontario, the government is clawing back. It is disheartening. As a result, revenue streams are changing. We must be vigilant, and we must be innovative.
What is the most important thing pharmacists can do to thrive in today’s changing environment? We have to make optimal use of our registered technicians. They free us up to do clinical work. In our store, we have double coverage regularly throughout the day and we are always looking for ways to save time on the routine, less-important tasks. You have to invest time and resources in enhancing workflow and efficiency. The future is bright for pharmacists who want to provide services they’ve never provided before. We have to step up. Ultimately, we have to give patients the products and the services they are looking for.