GlaxoSmithKline's New Community Outreach Team: A Pharmacist's Perspective
GSK’s team of passionate, forward-thinking pharmacists is dedicated to helping others in the profession deliver compassionate pharmacy care that improves patients’ lives.
I have been a pharmacist for more than 20 years and have had the privilege to serve patients in community pharmacies, hospitals, and the pharmaceutical industry. Over the years, I’ve seen the role of the community pharmacist evolve. A decade ago, I don’t think any of us would have imagined that becoming an Immunizing or a Medication Therapy Management pharmacist would become a standard of practice. Yet these areas of expertise are now common in the community pharmacy setting. However, one constant has always been that pharmacists are uniquely positioned on the frontlines of health care, providing valuable counseling and care to patients.
Last year, when GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) asked me to help with building a new team within the company that was solely focused on community pharmacists, I jumped at the chance. The company has always been actively involved with community pharmacists through our traditional sales force. Experience had shown us that counseling directly impacts appropriate use of medications. We recognized there was an opportunity for us to provide education and resources to enhance pharmacists’ interactions with patients.
Throughout my career, I have talked to hundreds of community pharmacists, as well as pharmacy district managers, clinical managers, and senior leaders, from chains and independent pharmacies. Regardless of their position or the setting in which they practice, pharmacists share a common desire and need to be patient-focused. They recognize the impact counseling can have on patient health outcomes, particularly for patients filling a prescription for the first time and for patients who are not compliant with their medications for a chronic disease.
The burden of chronic disease in the United States cannot be ignored. The average healthcare cost for someone who has one or more chronic conditions is five times greater than for someone without any chronic conditions, and chronic diseases account for $3 out of every $4 spent on healthcare.1,2
Thorough patient education provides patients with a heightened awareness of their chronic disease and a better understanding of the importance of taking their medicine. However, it’s a challenge for many community pharmacists to incorporate reinforcing the importance of medication adherence into the work flow of processing prescriptions. Additionally, a pharmacist’s ability to counsel patients is enhanced by their knowledge of the chronic disease and the prescribed medicine.
This past March, GSK initiated an industry first—a team of health professionals completely dedicated to community pharmacists. It was important that GSK build a team of talented individuals who understand the opportunities and challenges community pharmacists encounter on a daily basis. To bring value and the perspective of community pharmacy, GSK built a team of highly talented individuals who have served patients in this practice setting. Our team is made up of 90 Community Pharmacy Liaisons, most of whom are pharmacists themselves. All have a passion for helping pharmacists help patients.
The GSK Community Pharmacy Team is focused on providing resources to increase a pharmacist’s knowledge of chronic diseases, such as asthma, and straightforward counseling tools to help them make an even greater impact on patients and their quality of life. For example, a specific challenge that repeats itself in the community pharmacy setting is counseling newly diagnosed asthmatics on the proper use of inhaler delivery systems and why it’s important for the patient to take the controller medicine as prescribed by their physician.
What makes this approach so unique is that GSK has engaged the customer at every level—from chain headquarters to the individual pharmacists who interact with patients every day. We are taking a more customer-centric approach, with a single point of contact for each pharmacy we serve, and are able to provide specific services that meet the needs of the different pharmacies.
During the first few months since the launch of the GSK’s Community Pharmacy Outreach Team, our Community Pharmacy Liaisons have been introducing themselves and the services they can provide to chain and independent pharmacies. We are focused on assessing the pharmacists’ needs and how engaged they are in counseling patients.
What makes this approach unique to the industry is that the Community Pharmacy Team is aligning our activities based on what our customers tell us they need—not what we want them to hear. We are working with pharmacists at all levels—Regional Pharmacy Vice Presidents, Pharmacy District Managers, Clinical Coordinators—to ensure that we all work together to improve patient care and disease management resources.
Now, more than ever, pharmacists can have a significant impact on patients’ lives. Patients look to their pharmacist to answer questions about their prescribed medications, including how to properly take them, how safe and effective they are, and why compliance is critical to managing their chronic diseases.
I’m proud to be a part of GSK’s Community Pharmacy Team, and as a pharmacist, I never take for granted the impact I can make on our profession and more importantly, on patients’ lives because the knowledge and passion I bring does make a difference.
John Mayer, RPh, BSPharm, is a regional director for GlaxoSmithKline's Community Pharmacy Outreach Team. Prior to taking this position, he worked in multiple customer interfacing positions within GlaxoSmithKline. Previous to GlaxoSmithKline, he also worked in community and hospital pharmacies in southeast Michigan. Mr. Mayer graduated from Wayne State University with a BS in pharmacy.
1. Partnership for Solutions. Chronic conditions: making the case for ongoing care, September 2004 update. Partnership for Solutions Web site. www.partnershipforsolutions.org/DMS/files/chronicbook2004.pdf. Accessed July 24, 2007.
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chronic disease overview: costs of chronic disease. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site. www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/overview.htm. Accessed July 24, 2007.