Pharmacy U

Pharmacy Leader profile. Jane Xia – “Are you the best healthcare collaborator you can be?”


by Jane Xia BSc.Pharm, PharmD, MBA


Many pharmacists have asked me how to start a new collaborative project with other healthcare providers. Key to collaboration is knowing what you want to collaborate on and what differentiate your pharmacy from the rest. Although we have the best intention to provide the best clinical services, we end up not able to accomplish any because we run out of time and lose focus. One of the things I’ve observed over the years is pharmacy tries to be all and do all. This may sound counter-intuitive but businesses thrive on the value you provide and when you provide too many services, you end up being mediocre at all of them. That’s why it’s so important to understand the need to collaborate with other healthcare professionals.

What is interprofessional collaboration?

There are various definitions of interprofessional collaboration. The World Health Organization defines it as “when multiple health workers from different professional backgrounds provide comprehensive services by working with patients, their families, caregivers and communities to deliver the highest quality of care across settings.” I like the quote from Charlotte Beers, former Ogilvy CEO, who said, “Collaboration is highly overrated when you don’t have the right thing to do.”

Know your value and differentiator

The equation I’ve come up with for this is:

“Your therapeutic interest X key demographics = your differentiator + business success.”

Knowing what you are good at is the single most important thing before you start approaching others to collaborate on any projects. For instance, if you are a CDE who is great at performing medication reviews and identifying drug therapy problems, or someone who knows biologics really well to help with patient education, you must communicate this when you are collaborating with other healthcare providers to demonstrate your value.

Calculate your return on investment

For any business to embark on a collaborative project with the best patient outcome in mind, one must calculate the return on investment. Will patients and other healthcare providers value this project? Will this project provide financial success? Find the win-win solution to ensure that your time and efforts are being compensated before starting the project and know which revenue streams will you be benefiting from.


  1. Be prepared

We talk about being prepared for meetings all the time. This is no different. By preparing specific questions you want to ask your potential collaborators, you help yourself to visualize that interaction. Before meeting your key collaborators, you must first get to know the staff in that clinic to help you establish good first impressions. Failures are expected. Often, physicians are bombarded with workload expectations, patient requests, and many other tasks that demand their attention. Do not feel rejected if you are unsuccessful at booking an appointment the first time you ask. Persistence is key and it is a process. It is like riding a bike, it takes many tries and failures before you can be successful.

  1. Focus on exploring their needs

One of the most important steps in collaboration is discovering your collaborators’ needs. Knowing what they are struggling with, you will be better able to empathize and build value that will match their needs.

  1. Be a solution provider

This goes hand in hand with the second secret above, where you become the solution provider after knowing what your potential collaborators need and want. This helps you to create win-win solutions that will benefit everyone participating in this project.

  1. Understand each other’s roles and responsibilities

The last thing you want is everyone duplicating each other’s tasks and wasting valuable time that should be dedicated to patient care. Knowing everyone’s role and responsibilities will help mitigate potential waste, so everybody can work synergistically together.

  1. Work on communication

One key thing that many ignore is to establish regular communication when it comes to running a project. You and your collaborators should set a time on a regular basis to debrief on how the collaboration is going, what some successes and challenges are along the way. Be sure to communicate the successes you have achieved for your patients first to demonstrate your value!

  1. Earn your right to close

One mistake that many pharmacists make is not asking for the business despite providing immense value in a collaborative relationship. However, you should not be asking for referrals for a clinical program too early in the relationship when you have not yet demonstrated your value. It is important to know how to articulate and demonstrate your value through examples and the ways patients benefit from your intervention and collaborative efforts.

Jane Xia BSc.Pharm, PharmD, MBA a lecturer at the UBC Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences. After working in various roles in the healthcare industry, Jane Xia knows how to build clinical programs, empower others, and drive business growth.