Tip of the Week: Find Collaborations Beyond the Obvious

Collaboration can manifest as referrals, joint community outreach, and networking.

Pharmacists often hear about the need to collaborate and find collaborative working relationships (CWRs). Usually, “collaboration” implies working with general practitioners, sometimes specialists, and perhaps nurses, but we would be well served to open up even greater possibilities and range of potential partners.

Many people are either directly or indirectly involved in the medication use process. Medications have the potential to improve patients’ conditions, but also cause such a diverse array of adverse effects that other professionals could certainly benefit from sage advice and other professional services of pharmacists. Collaborations can extend to philanthropic organizations, clergy, law enforcement, advocacy groups, and others.

In one study, researchers wrote about collaboration with pharmacists in a publication called The Hearing Journal,1 illustrating how a paper on potential collaboration could be written in a venue well outside of pharmacy and primarily read by other experts (in this case, audiologists). The authors included a pharmacist at Johns Hopkins Hospital specializing in psychiatry and a government contract audiologist serving a veteran population. They wrote about certain drug classes that have potential ototoxic side effects, including aminoglycosides, cisplatin, loop diuretics, and salicylates.

The authors described the types of hearing damage these drugs can cause, ranging from vestibulotoxic to cochleotoxic, and whether that damage is reversible or irreversible. The authors also discussed tinnitus as being associated with hearing loss in many patients and added that there have been studies to support the role of certain medications in treatment of tinnitus, such as anticonvulsants (particularly GABAA receptor mediators) and benzodiazepines. In the case of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), corticosteroids have shown promise as prophylaxis.

The authors also described the potential synergy in collaboration between pharmacists and audiologists for patients with hearing loss. They focused on geriatric patients, who are more likely to be experiencing polypharmacy, and describe how the effectiveness of medication education might be inhibited due to patient hearing loss. Communication between pharmacists and audiologists can optimize and perhaps prevent some of the more deleterious complications of polypharmacy. Audiologists can also benefit from speaking with pharmacists when they are seeing geriatric patients on multiple medications to help those audiologists identify potential problems. Collaboration can manifest as referrals, joint community outreach, and networking. Collaboration was identified as a “practice standard” for pharmaceutical care over two decades ago.

The groundwork for more formal CWRs between pharmacists and audiologists (and other specialists) might not yet have been laid, but the astute pharmacy manager can make inquiries about the possibility of such. Establishing relationships and trust are among the first steps, regardless of anything more formal. Working with audiologists and other specialist providers at health fairs and other outreach events might very well lay the groundwork for something more fruitful and certainly cannot hurt the reputations of all professionals involved.

Additional information about Management Functions and Creating and Managing Value can be found in Pharmacy Management: Essentials for All Practice Settings, 5e.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Shane P. Desselle, PhD, RPh, FAPhA, is a professor of social and behavioral pharmacy at the Touro University California College of Pharmacy.

REFERENCE

Qureshi I, Qureshi A. Patient benefits of audiology, pharmacy collaboration. Hearing J. 2020;73(1):40-41.