What Pharmacists Can Gain from Public Health Partners

Pharmacists can learn a lot from helping to solve public health challenges.

During a 3-hour health literacy presentation by the Iowa Public Health Association, I realized pharmacists can learn a lot from helping to solve public health challenges.

The meeting, led by Holli Seabury of McMillen Health, covered many techniques for assessing and providing more effective communication materials. The techniques in understanding visual rhetoric and communication methods alone spurred full conversations about design, technical communication, and patient analysis.

Partly because of the Affordable Care Act, much of what we do as pharmacists involves patient outcomes. How well we educate on proper or consistent medication use will ultimately be graded. Exceptional pharmacies can enjoy multiple referrals from patients and providers, while those performing poorly against their peers may find it difficult to survive in the current landscape. By learning from our partners in public health, we can avoid reinventing the wheel in our efforts to improve patient outcomes.

For instance, we’re often frustrated when patients don’t respond to our pharmacy’s phone call or text message reminders to pick up their prescriptions. Well, if their basic food, shelter, and transportation needs aren’t met, they may never make it to the pharmacy.

Plus, many pharmacies have no delivery service because it doesn’t fit into their front-end sales-driven business model. From a public health perspective, however, we should think about individual needs. Are there patients for whom we should mail or deliver medications in order to improve population outcomes?

Although improved health literacy is another goal, we must remember to work within our patients’ current literacy levels. Most drug leaflets are standardized with the same font and education level to meet legal demands, but we need to educate patients and make sure they understood the material.

We may know these issues exist, but instead of staying in our pharmacy box, we should work with our local public health partners to spur real change in our community. In doing so, both professions can learn a lot from one another.