When Mrs. Smith visited Howe Sound Pharmacy recently to refill her blood pressure medication, pharmacists noticed that she was moving very gingerly.
By Lawrence Herzog
Co-owner Christopher Juozaitis checked her profile and noticed she was on acetaminophen for arthritis, and so enquired about her dosage.
She was taking only one to three tablets a week, he said. “Our engagement with her helped get her treating that condition the way she should be, and now she reports she is walking around her trailer court three times.”
Juozaitis told the story during the Pharmacy U Vancouver luncheon panel as an illustration of the simple way pharmacists can make big differences by engaging with their patients, educating them, and empowering them. It’s a service-focused orientation that the Gibsons, BC pharmacy has been using to deliver higher value to patients, resulting in improved outcomes, lower cost to the healthcare system and higher job satisfaction for their staff.
Pharmacist Eric Kostiuk joined Howe Sound Pharmacy after graduating from the University of British Columbia in 2013. “You really become part of the community when you take the time to spend with your patients,” he said. “It’s a remarkable feeling that you are making a difference.”
With their patients at the centre of all decision-making, the pharmacy has made some operational changes to improve service. Prescriptions are checked by registered technicians, and sufficient pharmacists are on duty to provide top calibre patient service. “It all comes back to structured workflow,” Juozaitis said. “We have switched to a more appointment-based model when we do immunizations and synchronization and those things enhance the efficiency of the pharmacy.”
By ensuring pharmacists are available at the intake station, the pharmacy improves adherence, he said. “It’s a win for the healthcare system, it’s a win for the patients, and it’s a win for the pharmacists.”
When patients ask the front store staff at Howe Sound Pharmacy about OTC products, they are frequently referred back to the pharmacists to check for interactions. “Probably seven out of 10 people have a drug therapy problem that they don’t even know about, and the only way to address it is to have an engagement with them,” he said. “When everybody works for the benefit of the patient, it provides a real focus.”
While many interventions aren’t billable, “when you spend that much time with them, you have a patient forever,” Kostiuk said. And in a small community like Gibsons, word of mouth on exceptional service spreads quickly. Getting to know local doctors has helped improve responsiveness, too.
“Just do it,” Juozaitis urged delegates. “You will get hooked on the feedback. Twenty minutes is all it takes to make recommendations that can change a patient’s life.”