April 2014, Vol 2, No 2 - The First Word
Donald J. Dietz, RPh, MS

As each issue of Inside Pharmacy is prepared, we focus on providing relevant material and topics that enable the retail pharmacist to provide better patient care. As pharmacists, we have the leading role in this endeavor. The Oscars acknowledge the role of the supporting actors and actresses in making an award-winning film. Similarly, pharmacists should acknowledge and cultivate the supporting role that a good pharmacy technician provides to a pharmacist in delivering exemplary patient care.

An Expanding Role
We need to look beyond the typical job description of a pharmacy technician. I propose we focus on the roles that technicians provide that go beyond accurate data entry, inventory management, keeping the pharmacy orderly, and providing good customer service.

What do I mean exactly when I state that you need to look beyond these essential responsibilities? Let me describe a few examples. First, think about the pharmacy technician who identifies a situation of low health literacy. Not being able to read the prescription directions will most likely lead to poor outcomes. Alerting the pharmacist of these situations so that he or she can counsel and provide the extra care needed to ensure the patient knows how to properly take their medication is key. Without a keen focus by an astute technician, these opportunities can be missed.

In a similar vein are situations when a pharmacy technician identifies that a patient is taking too much or too little of their medication based on refill patterns that are outside of the norm. Calling these situations to the attention of the pharmacist provides the opportunity for the pharmacist to engage the patient, address any problems, and verify that the prescriptions are being taken properly.

If your pharmacy is about to embark on a medication synchronization effort, involving the input of an engaged pharmacy technician to help identify patients for the program is key. The technician may have regular contact with the patients and may detect when getting to the pharmacy frequently is a burden to the patient. Technicians may also know those patients who would rather visit frequently, often for the social interaction.

An Invaluable Role
The value of an empathetic, caring technician extends beyond the pharmacy counter. Consider the technician who helps direct customers to over-the-counter (OTC) items outside the pharmacy department. Directing the patient to “Aisle 5” for a dental item is what is expected of every technician. Alerting the pharmacist of a parent struggling with what OTC pain reliever to give their sick child is when the technician helps the pharmacist provide better care.

In addition, the technician who knows when to tell the pharmacist to move a prescription to the top of the workflow queue is invaluable. This is especially true when it involves an acutely ill patient waiting for their medication or a return visit from a patient, and the prescription is not yet ready.

Technicians like those I described above can be invaluable to your pharmacy and to you in identifying situations where you can truly impact and help your patients. If you have technicians like these in your pharmacy, please acknowledge their efforts and thank them for helping you provide the best patient care possible.

We should also seek to develop these skills in our existing and future pharmacy technicians. I am sure there are many other examples of wonderful services your supporting “actors” and “actresses” provide to help you in your role as a healthcare provider. I invite you to share your exemplary technician success stories with our readers by e-mailing them to the editorial staff of Inside Pharmacy (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

My goal is to share more ideas on the valuable role pharmacy technicians play in enabling us to provide the best care to our patients every day.

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Last modified: May 21, 2015
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