Tips for Building Better Pharmacist-Patient Relationships

November 19, 2015
Antranig Dereyan, Associate Editor

Being a pharmacist in today's world means more than just filling prescriptions. Building and maintaining patient relationships should be the No. 1 priority for practicing pharmacists.

Being a pharmacist in today’s world means more than just filling prescriptions. Building and maintaining patient relationships should be the No. 1 priority for practicing pharmacists.

Did you know that 45% of patients ask their physicians about alternative treatment options at least once every visit, according to an engaged patient insight report from Inspire? Pharmacists can leverage this survey finding to try and engage patients about current medications and alternative treatments. Think of yourself as an interpreter of important information, rather than a drug dispenser.

In fact, 25% of the more than 13,000 patients from Inspire’s online patient community surveyed have already received educational information from their pharmacies. All pharmacists can provide this information by communicating directly with the patient, listening to a patient’s concerns, and handing out written materials. As Dave Walker, RPh, previously stated, “you need to start the conversation.”

It is important to note that building rapport with a patient takes time and effort, but it can be done successfully. In the Inspire survey, 41% of patients reported having a “relationship” with their pharmacist.

The survey results noted that patients use a variety of outlets to fill their prescriptions. CVS led the way with 30% prescription fill market share, followed closely by Walgreens at 26%. (Rite Aid’s 9% prescription market share wasn’t included in Walgreens’ equation, as the merger between Walgreens and Rite Aid still needs to receive approval from the US Securities and Exchange Commission.)

In an ever-changing pharmaceutical industry with fluctuating insurance rates, the survey authors want pharmacists to keep in mind that higher medication costs are taking a toll on patients.

Half of the patients surveyed have experienced difficulties with the affordability/cost of their medications. This means that pharmacists must be able to understand their patients’ circumstances. which could lead to high-quality patient interactions otherwise known as clinical empathy.

“Until someone gains respect for you, they won’t value what you have to offer them in terms of knowledge,” said Gloria Grice, PharmD, who specializes in patient communication and building patient relationships, in an exclusive interview with Pharmacy Times. “The key to earn the respect of patients is to respect them, which includes their beliefs, perspectives, opinions, and feelings.”

Slightly more than half of all patients surveyed have gone without a prescribed medication for reasons that include drug costs (29%) and insurance issues (21%).

“My insurance premiums increased by 13% each of the past 2 years and I had to move to a lesser insurance coverage plan because I can’t afford to keep the better coverage I used to have,” one patient said in the Inspire survey.

“Copay for my Doctors (all considered Specialists by my insurance) has gone from $40 to $80 per visit in one year!” another survey taker lamented.

In addition, 60% of patients surveyed saw at least one of their medications switch to a generic equivalent by their health insurance provider. The FDA is conducting a study to address how this transitionaffects patient adherence to drug therapy, given that previous studies have indicated patients are more likely to stop taking their generic medications when their drugs' physical attributes change.

Pharmacists can use the information gathered by this survey to be more compassionate and understanding towards their patients. The survey results can also be used to figure out what is working and not working, and to help pharmacists grow a stronger patient base.