Patient-First Approach: Pharmacists Play Key Role in Maximizing Therapeutic Benefits, Improving Patient Experience and Outcomes

During American Pharmacists Month this October, it’s vital for more pharmacists and health care providers to think about how they touch each patient’s life.

The modern patient wants their care to be timely, connected, and sensitive to their needs. They want the human touch and, as much as possible, to feel heard at every touch point along their health care journey. In our technological age, however, this has become more challenging.

Some health care organizations claim to be patient-first, but the reality is that too often they fail to put this philosophy into practice. Nevertheless, this approach could potentially transform the entire US health care system.

A patient-first approach does just that: prioritizes the needs of each patient to ensure they can achieve the best possible health outcome. It’s about helping patients and continually supporting them for their entire patient journey. This focus is particularly effective for patients with a chronic disease or a rare disease who face a number of complications in terms of dealing with insurance coverage, misdiagnosis, and lack of streamlined information.

When pharmacists take a patient-first approach and gain in-depth knowledge on a particular rare disease, they are able to not only help the patient, but also physicians and specialists by letting them focus more efficiently on identifying the most optimal therapy. What’s more, specialists treating these patients appreciate the additional insight, enhanced level of treatment, and focus on overcoming communication hurdles.

This added level of disease-specific expertise also enables pharmacists to increase the patient’s understanding of the disease and further engage them in their treatment. In this way, the entire care team can remove barriers to safe and effective therapy and provide a clear care plan. Education serves as the cornerstone of a patient-first approach, both for providers and patients. By providing patients more education about their disease state, their treatment plans are improved leading to better outcomes and quality of life.

Forging Strong Relationships

Far too many patients have experienced the retail pharmacy approach, which focuses on patient volume rather than putting the patient at the center of care. Ongoing care is more about brief phone calls and filling daily quotas rather than interacting with vulnerable patients.

In contrast, a patient-first approach facilitates positive outcomes for the patient and encourages solid, long-lasting relationships based on compassion. A patient-first approach makes it possible to provide support, communicate insights, share personal stories, and develop the kind of relationships that uplift both pharmacist and patient. In many cases, it can grow into a family environment, which can make a significant and positive impact on patients, especially for those in rare disease communities who find themselves marginalized by the system or isolated by their disease state.

For pharmacy professionals, a patient-first organizational culture can better address patients’ immediate and long-term needs and engage them every step of the way, while gaining insights for better managing the patient experience.

Operational Focus on Patients

Even for pharmacists serving in operational areas—and who interact less with patients than other phamacists—a patient-first approach means making every decision based on how it will benefit the patient or how it will impact a pharmacist’s ability to positively impact the patient. It comes down to keeping the patient’s benefit in mind with every decision, large or small, or how it will ultimately affect the patient’s overall health.

During American Pharmacists Month this October, it’s vital for more pharmacists and health care providers to think about how they touch each patient’s life, share stories, and spread the word about not only the valuable services pharmacy professionals offer, but also how a patient-first model can lead to effective change and move the nation closer to what patient care should really be about.

About the Author

Brandon Salke, PharmD, Pharmacist-in-Charge, Optime Care.