What to Focus on When Speaking with Elected Officials in the Community

The first thing is educating these folks, because it's hard for them to understand our challenges if they don’t understand what we do.

Christine Lee-Wilson, Owner of Professional Pharmacy MD, and Nimesh Jhaveri, President, Community Pharmacy and Health, spoke to Pharmacy Times about public policy and advocacy in pharmacy.

Christine Lee-Wilson: That's a tough question. I feel that relationships need to be formed before you just go in like a bulldog trying to talk about all of these issues and wanting change. I would definitely say, before a session starts—when things are not so heated—to start developing these relationships and forming those bonds, so that when there is that issue and when you need to go in stronger, you have that opportunity, and you're just more comfortable speaking to that person because you know them on a more personal level. I think there's definitely times and places for each approach, and that is why you have to be involved more than once, and keep being involved, and keep attending sessions.

Nimesh Jhaveri: Most of these legislators, as Christina can confirm, are not pharmacists. They're not pharmacy technicians. They don't know what we do. I think the first thing we have to do, collectively as an industry, is to educate—help people understand what our job is, and what we do every day, who we take care of on a daily basis. It's that grandma, that grandpa, the uncle, the dad, the son, the daughter, everyone. Generationally, we're helping people. I think the first thing is educating these folks, because it's hard for them to understand our challenges if they don’t understand what we do.

So, when these legislators walk into our stores, help them understand. Walk them through the workflow, walk them through how to dispense a medication, walk them through how we actually bill for a prescription and the challenges that we have there. That's when it becomes real. I wouldn't even say, take out your last [profit and loss statement] (P&L) and show them that this is how we make money, this is how we don't make money. These are the categories of drugs and items that we sell. Make it real. I think that's probably the first thing that I would do, and certainly what Christine said is spot on, which is to start to form relationships. And then you could have that conversation about legislative activity. That's what I would suggest.