Expanding Public Understanding About Pharmacists' Roles

Pharmacists have long known that they do much more than dispense medications, but the Pharmacists for Healthier Lives campaign is using social media, videos, and real-world stories to spread that knowledge to the consumers.

Pharmacists have long known that they do much more than dispense medications, but the Pharmacists for Healthier Lives campaign is using social media, videos, and real-world stories to spread that knowledge to the consumers.

Started with the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP), Pharmacists for Healthier Lives is now a multiorganizational effort to increase awareness about the important role pharmacists play in their patients’ lives. Partner organizations include the National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations (NASPA), the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP), and the National Pharmaceutical Association (NPhA), among others.

The campaign has been a long time coming, said AACP Executive Vice President and CEO Lucinda Maine, PhD, RPh.

After using most of 2016 and 2017 to prepare, research, and interview candidate organizations, the final preparations took most of 2018. Finally, Maine said, they launched in October of 2018.

“We want to move the needle of public understanding and their enthusiasm about, and their favorability of, pharmacists,” Maine said in an interview. “The reason why we think that’s so important is because it will become easier for pharmacists to connect with consumers who need their services but may not know that those services are even available.”

In their research before launching the campaign, AACP found that a third of consumer respondents to a survey held an “extremely favorable” view about pharmacists. Over 75% of respondents answered either “extremely favorable” or “very favorable” when asked about their view of pharmacists.

“The ‘extremely favorable’ respondents had a much more deep understanding of the beyond dispensing activities of pharmacists,” Maine said. “So we really want that; that’s really what we want to have grow.”

To that end, the Pharmacists for Healthier Lives campaign is using social media, videos, and real stories of pharmacists’ impacts. As the most accessible and most commonly seen medical professionals, Maine said there’s plenty of “impact stories” of how pharmacists have changed their patients’ lives.

“A pharmacist could identify that a patient who, maybe they’re a quadriplegic, or maybe they just have a chronic condition like diabetes or something that has been acquired over time, but no one’s picked up on the fact that the patient is depressed,” Maine said as an example. “And then the pharmacist, because of their repeat contact with patients, much more so than the typical number of physician contacts over a period of a year, might be the one who picks up on that, initiates therapy, and in some respects potentially saves the person’s life.”

Some common themes for the campaign’s videos are drug access issues, opioid concerns, and pharmacists working in challenging settings.

The campaign has also released a statement regarding the importance of immunizations—an effort not only to spread awareness about the issue, but to demonstrate how pharmacists are involved in the issue. Their impact stories are dovetailing with these issues, in an effort to further illustrate how pharmacists are integral to nearly every current issue or concern in the medical field.

Pharmacists for Healthier Lives’ social media presence is only one piece of the puzzle, however, as they plan to continue engaging consumers offline. Social media provides a platform to engage consumers both before and after a physical meeting, whether at a town hall-style event, a health symposium, or something similar.

Regardless of how the consumers are learning about pharmacists’ roles, Maine said the campaign itself is not enough without the partnerships and work of other organizations.

“We’re willing to take the lead on this project, but we can’t do it by ourselves,” she said. “We always knew from the beginning that we couldn’t do it by ourselves.”

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  • Pharmacist Coalition Urges Immunization Against Preventable Diseases

References

Pharmacists for Healthier Lives. https://pharmacistsforhealthierlives.org/home/#partners. Accessed July 23, 2019.