Students Should Seize the Opportunity to Host Brown Bag Consults
The current health care environment makes it challenging for student pharmacists to find ways to shine. But the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has given students the opportunity to assist pharmacists with new workflow issues and prioritize patient volume.
For many, this has led to prepandemic nostalgia, not just for what was once normal, but also for more simpler times when we could smile at customers from across the counter and make casual small talk with them without wearing a mask or worrying about the virus.
Yet, despite the new stress of managing safety and well-being in the pharmacy during the pandemic, it remains critical that we know our patients. Relationships are at the core of obtaining positive patient outcomes, and the pandemic has not erased patients’ chronic medical conditions or their need for treatment.
Student pharmacists are in a unique position to reestablish the definition of patient care within the pharmacy as we emerge from the pandemic. Offering services such as brown bag consults can demonstrate the importance of pharmacy services beyond dispensing.
A brown bag consult is when a patient gathers their current medications, including any OTC, mail order, specialty, and/ or herbal products, and figuratively puts them into a “brown bag.” The patient then reviews their medications with the pharmacist during the consult.
During a consult, student pharmacists can focus on supporting those who have chronic conditions, as they may be at higher risk for medical-related errors due to the quantity of different medications, a variety of health care providers, and potentially more than 1 pharmacy filling their prescriptions. When maintenance therapy needs adjustment, patients may additionally experience short- or long-term changes in their health.
Within the community, the student pharmacist is a provider with whom a patient may communicate on a consistent basis for follow-up care. Refill medication counseling is an excellent opportunity for students to identify vulnerable patients.
During refill medication counseling, students can ask open-ended questions to patients about possible concerns or changes, which makes it is easy to determine if further review by the student or pharmacist is necessary.
In this way, brown bag consults provide students and pharmacists a way to offer patients extended counseling concepts such as medication therapy management (MTM). These consults are an essential safety and educational tool to help the pharmacy measure and instill quality care within the health care system.
When conducting brown bag consults with patients, the student can identify potential problems or concerns that may require additional follow-up with the pharmacist or prescriber, or they can offer an MTM session to dis- cuss things further.
During the consult, the student pharmacist should first compare the medications in hand with those listed on a patient’s pharmacy profile. They should then check for duplication of therapy and identify any interactions. Medications need to be verified for the correct dosage strength and frequency.
The student also should identify if the patient has any outdated or discontinued medications. Providing an updated medication list to the patient at the end of the brown bag consult ensures the patient can share accurate information about their medications to any provider.
A brown bag consult is also a useful safety tool for patient adherence. Brown bag consults can show how well patients understand their conditions, their medications, associated health purpose, and any directions for taking the medication, as well as provide the pharmacist with insight into a patient’s lifestyle and quality of care.
Brown bag consults provide an opportunity to develop the patient-pharmacist relationship, which increases loyalty, trust, medical error prevention, and overall better individualized services. As value-based care initiatives grow throughout the health care landscape, brown bag consults are a proactive pharmacy-led contribution.
Jill Drury, PharmD, BCOP, is a clinical pharmacy specialist in Chicago, Illinois, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.