Getting to Know Your Pharmacist is Good for Your Health
When going to the pharmacy, you may only see the pharmacist as the person behind the counter who fills your prescription. But just as you build a relationship with your doctor, it’s important to do the same with your pharmacist.
They are an integral part of your health care team and can offer guidance when it comes to your medications. Getting to know your pharmacist can vastly improve your health and well-being.
Your pharmacist is one of the most accessible health care resources you have. And there’s no need to schedule an appointment to get a face-to-face interaction with a pharmacist. Oftentimes it’s easier to get them on the phone when you have a question.
Pharmacists are very knowledgeable about how medications impact your medical conditions. They can be the first source to tell you when something is wrong and when you might need further evaluation from a medical provider, said Cynthia Griffin, vice president of Medicare pharmacy programs.
What patients can do
To build a strong relationship, start by using the same pharmacy for all your medications. This gives the pharmacist the full picture of everything you’re taking and helps them detect any possible adverse drug interactions.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. For example, if you’ve started a new medication and have been getting headaches every day, a pharmacist can help determine if that’s something to be concerned about.
Griffin said she uses the same pharmacy consistently and she’s very comfortable asking questions and getting the pharmacist’s opinion.
For some Medicare members, there is a program to help build the pharmacist-patient relationship. The Medication Therapy Management program offers qualifying members a comprehensive medication review once a year. This is an opportunity for the pharmacist to go over the patient’s medication regimen to see if there are any side effects, any unnecessary or missing medications, or if there are less expensive medications the patient can consider.
This program not only enhances patients’ knowledge of their medications, it helps them see their pharmacist as a trusted resource to help them manage their medical conditions, Griffin said.
Breaking through barriers
Building a relationship with your pharmacist can help you break through barriers that might keep you from taking your medication. If transportation is a barrier, your pharmacist can help set up home delivery or have prescriptions mailed to you. If cost is a barrier, a pharmacist can let you know if there is a less expensive generic medication you can take instead of a brand name drug. Pharmacists can also help you find cost-saving options, such as manufacturer coupons.
Another common barrier is the perception of not needing to take a medication. Pharmacists can help patients understand what their medication does and how it helps over time. For example, some patients with high blood pressure may not understand the need for a medication because they don’t feel physical symptoms. Pharmacists can step in and warn patients that high blood pressure can lead to an increased risk of stroke or kidney problems.
They can also educate patients on the dangers of stopping a medication because of unwanted side effects.
What pharmacists can do
There are also steps pharmacists can take to help build a relationship with their patients and establish trust. Griffin said some practices could benefit from having more hours focused on counseling patients. She recalls working in practices where one pharmacist was accountable for filling prescriptions and another was accountable for the counseling patients and doing other non-operational activities.
Some patients may be hesitant to ask the pharmacist questions because they look busy and don’t want to interrupt them. Having hours set aside just for face-to-face or telephone interactions would help this issue.
The next time you make a trip to the pharmacy, don’t be hesitant to introduce yourself to your pharmacist and let them know if you have any questions. They are more than happy to help you along your health care journey.
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Monica Gutos grew up in Jacksonville and currently lives in Savannah, Georgia, with her husband. She studied journalism at the University of Florida and was a writer and editor for a Jacksonville-based publishing company for nine years. In her spare time, Monica enjoys going to the beach, cheering on the Florida Gators during football season and binge-watching the latest shows on Netflix.