May 16, 2019
Inside: Learn new communication skills to make patients more comfortable in and committed to your pharmacy.
Every day, patients walk into your pharmacy dealing with a new diagnosis or worried about the expense of a new medication.
In these potentially fraught cases, it’s important to be sensitive in how you communicate. As a medical professional, you have the power to put your patients at ease or to unintentionally ease them away from your pharmacy for good.
Communicating effectively isn’t just good for business, it’s essential for excellent patient care and healthy outcomes.
Use these tips to enhance your face-to-face interactions with patients.
When people feel like they know you, they’re more likely to trust you. That doesn’t mean you have to be on a first name basis with every patient that comes into your pharmacy. However, if you make an effort to be friendly all the time, you’ll have some goodwill for when things get more difficult.
To build rapport, find the common ground between you and your patients. Go-to topics that are great conversation starters include the latest movies or TV shows, sports, and hobbies.
And if conversation isn’t your strong suit, ask lots of questions and let your patients do the talking. This will make them feel valued and put them in a good mood for the remainder of the visit.
Go beyond “Hi, how are you?” Instead, ask about their pets, their children, or their job.
These simple yet unexpected questions will change up the normal routine of everyday small talk and establish a unique and memorable interchange with your patients that will make them eager to return to your pharmacy.
To ensure your patients know that you value their time, set aside time just for them.
Don’t answer the phone, work on another task, or interrupt a patient for a different task, even if it takes just a second.
Make a conscious effort to practice active listening, which signals to your patient that you are engaged and committed to the conversation. It’s a great way to build trust among your patients.
Elements of active listening include being patient as the other person speaks, echoing back what they’ve said, and asking for clarification when necessary. Before you respond, summarize what’s already been said.
If you find it too difficult to stop your other responsibilities to give a patient your full attention, it may be time to consider upping your staff.
While your words might be friendly and engaged, your body could be telling patients a completely different story.
Studies have shown that your body language can account for more than 50 percent of your communication. That means how you position yourself can be more important than how you speak to your patients.
Watch out for behaviors that can make patients feel uncomfortable. These include crossing your arms, shifting your feet, or letting the pharmacy’s phone distract you.
If you feel awkward and don’t know what to do with your hands while talking to a patient, don’t busy yourself with another task that could make you seem disengaged. Try folding your hands together below your waist rather than crossing your arms in front of your chest.
You may want to close the distance between yourself and your patient, but be careful—standing too close makes people feel like you’re invading their personal space.
Foster trust by making consistent eye contact—although you don’t have to stare them down—and facing patients completely. Nod your head to show that you’re listening and understanding what they’re saying.
Affirmative gestures like leaning in slightly when someone is speaking or using reasonable hand motions while talking can show that you’re pleased to be involved in the conversation.
While you’re definitely used to talking about sensitive medical issues every day, the same might not be true for your patients.
For these kinds of conversations, designate an area in your pharmacy where you and your patient can chat in private. That way, they are more comfortable and there are fewer opportunities for distractions.
When patients feel like they don’t have adequate privacy, they are less likely to ask important medical questions. Because of this, they might not get the comprehensive care they need.
If possible, use a consultation room to make your patients feel at ease while discussing personal matters. If there’s no additional room available, make do with what you have. Keep your office organized for the occasional private consultation when needed.
Present information slowly in order to prevent your patient from feeling overwhelmed with the details and to keep you both on track.
Addressing topics one at a time can be especially helpful for patients with multiple ailments and prescriptions. Although their symptoms, conditions, and treatments are bound to overlap, a clear outline can be an effective communication tool to guide consultations or medication therapy management (MTM).
Write everything down, and fill instructions for each medication separately. If they have a written record, patients will be less likely to disregard your information altogether or give up because they’re overwhelmed by the complexity of it all.
Consider creating a form that you can fill with patient-specific information for folks to take home. A written, organized plan not only structures your conversation but can also be beneficial for elderly patients or anyone who would like to refer back to your instructions.
Once you’ve shared all the information you think is necessary, don’t rush your patient out the door. Make sure to ask if they have any additional questions or concerns.
This way, you can ensure that you don’t end the interaction prematurely and leave patients with unanswered questions. Even if your patients don’t have anything else to add, they’ll feel valued when you take the time to listen to their thoughts.
If your patients do have more questions, make sure to listen closely to what they’re saying. Cutting them off to answer a question, even if you know the answer before they’re finished asking, can make patients feel like you’re rushing through your time with them in order to return to your other responsibilities.
This is also a great time to remind them of other resources that are available to them, such as your pharmacy’s educational services, website or social media pages.
PBA Health is dedicated to helping independent pharmacies reach their full potential on the buy side of their business. The company is an independently owned pharmacy services organization based in Kansas City, Mo., that serves independent pharmacies with group purchasing services, expert contract negotiations, distribution services, and more.
PBA Health, an HDA member, operates its own VAWD-certified warehouse with more than 6,000 SKUs, including brands, generics, narcotics CII-CV, cold-storage products, and over-the-counter (OTC) products.
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