We have all seen the positive surveys identifying pharmacists among the most trusted professionals, and as the most accessible healthcare provider. For most people, the community pharmacy is their most frequently visited healthcare location, and to reinforce these high standards, pharmacists seek to advance the pharmacy profession, increase our visibility, and expand the breadth of service offerings we provide.
We do this in many ways, and beyond the dispensing of prescription drugs. Our interactions with prescribers for duplicate therapies or drug interactions often go unnoticed. However, pharmacists’ proactive efforts to contact prescribers to support medication adherence (eg, when a patient is out of refills, or, worse yet, has stopped taking a necessary medication) are recognized, because the patients see the results of these interactions first-hand. Similarly, we often contact insurance providers to help correct a prescription rejection, or initiate a prior authorization for a new medication. Pharmacists interact directly with patients via patient counseling, administrating immunizations, providing medication therapy management, or enrolling the patient in a medication synchronization program.
Promoting Health Awareness
Because of the frequency of patient visits to community pharmacies, and the number of interactions pharmacists have with patients, I think there is a greater opportunity for us to promote healthcare awareness. On May 1, I was watching a cable news channel on television promoting May as stroke awareness month. The news story in question covered the frequency of strokes, addressed signs and symptoms of a stroke, and stressed the importance of early diagnosis and treatment when warning signs are present. Although I commend this channel for their efforts, I recognized this as an opportunity for community pharmacists to implement a similar process, or—if they already promote health awareness initiatives—expand their existing efforts.
I quickly jotted down a few ideas about how pharmacists can promote health awareness initiatives in their pharmacies:
- In-store banners, easels, and television and audio announcements
- Print advertising (ie, part of the weekly circular)
- Website promotion
- Interactive voice response phone messaging for those calling to inquire about refills, hours of operation, or directions
- Promotion at in-store clinics
- Use of e-mails and social media
- Pharmacy bag stuffers
- Health fairs, held in-store and in the community
- Insert with mailed communications to the patient from the pharmacy
- Promote health awareness initiatives to patients when they are receiving immunizations.
Another option for patient outreach could include promoting any number of consumer messages about appropriate use, storage, and destruction of opioid pain medications.
Share Your Ideas with Us
As a preceptor for future pharmacists during their last year of pharmacy school, I seek to instill a sense of professional advocacy during the students’ rotations. For students at your pharmacy, perhaps promoting a particular health observance to your patients would be a well-received advocacy effort.
In summary, promoting upcoming health awareness initiatives is an excellent way to increase disease awareness, support professional advocacy, and position your pharmacy towards your patients and those who view your advocacy message—and who may become your patients in the future.