Tip of the Week: Create Interdisciplinary Care Teams Through Effective Relationship-Building


Trust between a physician and pharmacist is essential to the overall quality of patient-centered care.

The effectiveness of patient-centered health care depends greatly on how well interdisciplinary health care professionals work together. While being under one “roof” and system facilitate communication and collaboration for those in hospital and clinic settings, the challenges of working under various systems in disparate locations can present challenges for family practitioners and community pharmacists.

Infrequent communication between physicians and pharmacists in ambulatory care can erect a lack of trust barrier, thus mitigating the potential effectiveness of interdisciplinary health care. Mercer et al examined the communication between primary care physicians and community pharmacists.1

They revealed through interviews with physicians and pharmacists that physicians communicated differently with pharmacists with whom they knew or worked previously when compared to pharmacists with whom they were not as familiar.

The authors discussed how physicians expressed trust and confidence in pharmacists who were nearby or in the same clinic. In contrast, physicians were less likely to establish a working relationship with pharmacists who were not in the same area.

From the pharmacists’ aspect, it was revealed that communication with physicians was difficult due to gatekeepers, such as reception staff and/or nurses. Trust between a physician and pharmacist is essential to the overall quality of patient-centered care.

However, trust cannot be acquired unless effective communication is made feasible and routine. Another problem with lack of communication is that physicians may not be able to gauge the knowledge of pharmacists, which exacerbates lack of empathy for, and understanding of, potential roles in treating patients.

As such, pharmacy managers should engage in communication with their patients’ physician to build trust. Pharmacy managers are ideally situated for this role, since they are the ones most likely to have been with the same pharmacy for longer periods of time and can hopefully leverage their networking skills to forge new opportunities.

Once an initial working relationship has been formed, other pharmacy team members can be better integrated into the care team. Relationships shape collaborations and interactions.

Team building, networking, gratitude, emotional intelligence, transparency, contact initiation, engagement, and kindness are important in the development of relationships, which in turn help build trust and actuate effective teams even in the presence of spatial and geographic boundaries. Pharmacy managers can deploy these skills and include their staff in effective teams with area prescribers.

Additional information about Negotiation Skills and Human Resources Management Functions can be found in Pharmacy Management: Essentials for All Practice Settings, 5e.


Mercer K, Neiterman E, Guirguis L, Burns C, Grindrod K. "My pharmacist": Creating and maintaining relationship between physicians and pharmacists in primary care settings. Res Social Adm Pharm. 2020;16(1):102-107. doi:10.1016/j.sapharm.2019.03.144

About the Authors

Xeng Xiong, PharmD Candidate, Touro University California College of Pharmacy.

Shane Desselle, RPh, PhD, FAPhA, Professor of Social and Behavioral Pharmacy, Touro University California College of Pharmacy.

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