By donalee Moulton
Photo by Brandon Gray
Successful pharmacists understand that successful partnerships are essential to ensure enhanced patient care and a more robust bottom line.
Foremost among those are partnerships with physicians. Iris Krawchenko, a pharmacist consultant and clinical pharmacist in Hamilton, Ont. talked with PharmacyU.ca about how the changing role of the pharmacist makes these partnerships more vital than ever before and how they can be established and sustained…successfully.
How important is it for pharmacists to have partnerships with physicians?
The roles of pharmacists and physicians are interwoven: physicians usually prescribe, pharmacists usually provide. We are linked in the circle of care for patients. That makes it extremely important to have partnerships – and pharmacists need to establish these relationships. Such partnerships can improve efficiency and effectiveness. They also increase patients’ trust and comfort levels. Patients have a lot of choice when it comes to selecting a pharmacist. Those who provide value-added service attract and retain patients.
As well, pharmacists can now provide autonomous services. To attain acceptance and meaningful collaboration, pharmacists increasingly rely on having good relationships with physicians.
What are the essential building blocks to establish effective partnerships with physicians?
It all begins with the first step. It can take courage to reach out and put yourself on the line. Start with one physician you believe will be receptive. Request a brief face-to-face meeting. This provides an opportunity to diffuse any misunderstanding and increase opportunities for patient care. Then frequent contact is required to maintain the relationship.
Requests for a brief meeting often don’t get a response from the physician. You need to be creative and persistent in some cases. The physician’s frontline staff can be real enablers. Get as much information about the physician as you can in advance. You may know a lot about them already – which electronic medical record is being used, what their office hours are, and areas of specialization. Leverage that information as you develop your strategy. It’s an opportunity to say, “I know you’re swamped, and here’s how I can help.” Offer to bring lunch. If there is a joint CE event, go there and try to meet the physicians. Some pharmacists also attend rounds at the local hospital. Whatever you do, ask questions and remember to always be confident and enthusiastic.
What are the challenges in building successful partnerships? How can these be addressed?
In preparing for that first meeting, identify what you want to talk about and what you want to accomplish. Focus on the benefits of the partnership to patients and the physician’s practice. Clearly understand what you want to get out of this meeting. Even if that first meeting is an introductory one, you need to have a strategy.
There is often a lack of confidence when it comes to establishing partnerships. Many pharmacists are not sure how to do this. Many are also concerned about potential conflict and rejection as well as finding the time for building and maintaining an important new relationship. That’s why first reaching out to a potentially receptive physician is a sound approach. It’s critical to find common ground; for example, you could point out you serve many of the same patients, or you work in the same building.
How are pharmacist/physician partnerships changing in the current environment?
The nature of partnership itself has changed along with the expanding scope of practice. Pharmacists, like physicians, are now prescribers. Hand in hand with physicians, you need to ensure seamless care.