In the US, about half of the population takes at least one prescription medication each month. But as a pharmacy technician, you know all too well that the process from getting a diagnosis to picking up a prescription is often complicated.
First, patients have to choose a pharmacy to fill their prescription. Then, they have to sort through all the different ways to pay for it. Next, they need to learn how to take it properly, gain a basic understanding of their health condition and possibly research the risks involved in taking their medication. Given all of that, you’ve likely met patients who seem slightly on edge or downright overwhelmed when they arrive at your pharmacy.
So, how do you help?
We interviewed dozens of pharm techs, pharmacists and patients to learn about the patient-pharmacy experience, and one theme stood out: While pharm techs play an important technical role in filling prescriptions, they are also at the frontlines of addressing patients’ emotional needs and ensuring that patients get the medications they need.
In other words, pharm techs have the opportunity to directly affect a patient’s health by establishing positive relationships between patients and pharmacies, supporting adherence and helping to create a patient-centered pharmacy.
Here are a few tips from those interviews to help you and your patients have the best pharmacy experience possible.
1) Get to know your patient
As a pharm tech, you are often the first and last person a patient sees at the pharmacy, so it’s important that you establish trust right from the start. Needless to say, patients come from all walks of life and carry with them their own beliefs, experiences, hopes and fears about their health and medications. The only way you will be able to address your patients’ needs is if you first understand where they are coming from.
2) Reassure your patient you are there to help
A little bit of empathy and reassurance can go a long way. Studies show that empathetic care helps patients feel valued and builds their confidence in you and your pharmacy team. Ann, a pharmacist from South Carolina, puts it this way:
“Nine times out of ten, patients arrive to the pharmacy overwhelmed. Maybe it’s a mother with her sick son. She’s there to pick up his prescription and just hopes he’ll be ok.
Or a patient could have come from a doctor’s office where he was told his blood sugar is 350 and his HbA1C is 9, and all the patient remembers is he’s now diabetic. He has no idea what the prescription means. But on his way to the pharmacy, he’s thinking about whether he’ll die soon, and he’s getting more and more scared.
Pharm techs are the heart and soul of the pharmacy. You need to reassure the patient that ‘we’re here to help you’—that the pharmacy is going to be there for them.”
Of course, no matter how hard you try, some patients will be more difficult to appease than others. For these situations, Cristal, a pharm tech educator from Kansas, gives this tip: “Don’t take it personally. Remember: you’re seeing patients at their worst. Just be there to help.”
3) Engage your patient
More and more, patients want to be engaged in their own healthcare. They’re looking up their symptoms online, researching treatment options and trying to find out about potential side effects. But when it comes to actually distinguishing facts from fiction, they still defer to healthcare providers for guidance.
The challenge for you then is to keep your patient working with you while guiding them toward the right solutions. As you help each patient, remember to use easy-to-understand language, encourage open dialogue and provide helpful tools they can access at their own convenience. The more patients feel in control of their own care, the better their health outcomes tend to be.
4) Offer your patient continued support
Lastly, remember that you are an important resource for your patient throughout their healthcare experience. During each of your patient interactions, be ready to offer support, whether that involves brushing up on elements of insurance coverage, keeping a list of savings resources nearby or setting reminders to follow up with patients when you hear back from their doctors. Your help could mean the difference between a patient filling their prescription and skipping out on a life-saving treatment.
Something big is about to happen
We’re celebrating National Pharmacy Technician Day and hosting our first event for pharmacy technicians next Tuesday, October 16! If you are a pharmacy technician in the Los Angeles, California area, we’d love to meet you! Check out the details and RSVP here.
If you’re not in LA or are interested in future events, you can sign up for future events here.
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