Pharmacy professionals can bring in the right people at the right time to identify needed changes and develop an action plan.
Today’s pharmacy professionals have lots to think about: quickly serving customers, keeping up to date on new medications, and maintaining their own wellbeing—to name a few concerns. Although the profession of pharmacist may seem fairly individualistic, the reality is that effectively collaborating with colleagues, customers, and other stakeholders—what we call smarter collaboration—is key to mastering the job.
People often refer to collaboration as a “soft” topic. But more than a decade of research at Harvard University has shown that collaboration, when practiced the right way, is a business imperative. Knowledge is changing so fast that if you want to be an expert in something, such as pharmaceuticals or pharmacy practice management, you’ve got to go deep, deep, deep in your focus.
But the problems we are facing are the exact opposite and every problem has different facets associated with it. This is why we need to take the narrow experts and join them up to tackle more complex problems than anyone could do alone.
So, how does this play out in a pharmacy environment? Drawing from my new book, Smarter Collaboration: A New Approach to Breaking Down Barriers and Transforming Work, we will examine how smarter collaboration helps achieve the 3 outcomes mentioned at the beginning of the article.
Although many pharmacies are short-staffed, customers still expect to receive their prescriptions promptly (or least by the quoted pick-up time). Being forced to wait in long lines or for multiple days could send them shopping for a new pharmacy.
Enter smarter collaboration. Starting with the end in mind (quickly serving customers), pharmacy professionals can bring in the right people at the right time to identify needed changes and develop an action plan. Obvious players include pharmacists, technicians, retail staff, and managers who work the front lines every day—and who can help identify top barriers to efficiency.
Input from other parties, such as pharmaceutical companies, local physicians, software technology providers, organizational executives, and/or the building landlord is also valuable in viewing the issue through a diversity of lenses. It could be, for example, that pharmacists aren’t familiar with new features of their prescription management system; a short training could be a game-changer.
And then talking to customers is also crucial—they are the ones you are serving after all. What are their biggest complaints or wishes?
Another top priority of pharmacy professionals is staying on top of the latest research and developments in medicine. This is linked closely to customer satisfaction and patient safety, as a knowledgeable pharmacist can accurately answer their questions and provide the best guidance.
Reading pharmaceutical journals and publications is certainly a good start. But to tap into the full breadth of knowledge about new drugs and their characteristics, pharmacy professionals must practice smarter collaboration. From interacting with customers, colleagues, academics, regulators, insurance company representatives, and other industry players, they can develop a more comprehensive view of medications that take into account more than their ingredients, adverse effects, and pricing.
For example, after learning about a new FDA-approved treatment for migraines, they may consult with experts from industry associations regarding their take on efficacy and differentiating characteristics. Another possible step is gathering input from customers on their preferred medication form, be it pill, shot, or nasal spray. Another perspective is seeing when the pharmacy’s wholesalers expect to start carrying the drug and how much they will charge.
With these different views of the latest treatments, they can better understand them, discuss them with customers, and contribute to patient health and wellbeing.
Pharmacists work to improve patient health, but the reality is many times their own health is in jeopardy. Research published in the International Journal of Clinical Pharmacy indicated that more than half of pharmacists are experiencing burnout. Associated risk factors include longer working hours, less professional experience, high patient and prescription volumes, excessive workload, and poor work/life balance.1
Industry groups have issued calls for better treatment and resources for pharmacy professionals. Although some of these have materialized, pharmacists can also leverage smarter collaboration to drive necessary changes.
For example, they may work with peers, managers, and corporate leaders to improve conditions for employees (and/or reduce expectations). Or they could partner with industry groups to develop and make use of wellness resources, such as classes on mindful meditation, free gym memberships, and mental health counseling.
Practicing smarter collaboration on a daily basis also improves health and wellbeing. When you collaborate smarter, you understand your strengths and preferences, communicate these to colleagues, and focus on doing what you do best. This alleviates the stress of feeling like you have to do everything.
Pharmacists have a lot on their plates, but more effective collaboration is a research-backed way they can tackle these challenges. By considering their end goals, and then from there dissecting whose perspectives could inform a top-notch solution (and at what point in the process), they are well positioned to thrive in their careers.
1. According to the research, pharmacist burnout and resilience were worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Heidi K. Gardner, PhD,is a Distinguished Fellow at Harvard Law School, and was previously a professor at Harvard Business School and a consultant at McKinsey & Co. Named by Thinkers50 as a Next Generation Business Guru, Dr. Gardner is a sought-after advisor, keynote speaker, and facilitator for organizations across a wide range of industries globally. She is the co-founder of the research and advisory firm Gardner & Co. and the author, alongside Ivan A. Matviak, of Smarter Collaboration: A New Approach to Breaking Down Barriers and Transforming Work.