7 Tips on Improving Communication in Your Pharmacy

Your patients are everything. That’s why keeping them engaged and loyal to your brand is so important.

Listed below are seven ways you can improve your pharmacist-patient communication so they continue to use your services for years to come.

Keep it short and sweet

Whether you have five minutes or 20 to speak with a patient, make it short and simple. Break down the information into smaller portions, and speak conversationally rather than in medical jargon so it’s easier to understand. Do this for both face-to-face and phone conversations. Avoid using medical abbreviations, especially with medications and conditions, and don’t give vague instructions. Instead, offer specific examples. It also helps to add visual aids to your conversations like photos or demonstrations of techniques. This engages your patient in the conversation and helps him understand what you’re explaining.

Focus on what’s important

The rule of three says that thoughts, ideas, and information are easier to remember in small groups and help pattern recognition. Try to adopt this rule in patient conversations by limiting yourself to the three main points (if you have more than three points, offer printed handouts that they can refer back to later).

If you want to identify key messages, simply ask your patients what their top questions or concerns are and simply add on to the other information you plan to share, such as prescription details.

During a longer discussion, find ways to reinforce your main points and assess patients’ knowledge at the end of each section or after introducing new information. And be sure to summarize them again at the end of your conversation.

Move to a new location

Find a quiet space to talk with your patient. It will reduce interruptions from other people around you, and you’ll have privacy. Some patients may be embarrassed discussing personal matters with other people around, so a quiet space without distractions will allow them to talk with confidence.

Have your patient repeat what you said

This tactic is used a lot in education and healthcare. Have your patients repeat back the information that you gave them, that way you know that they heard you and whether they understood what you told them. Plus, if they have any questions, you’ll be able to answer them right away. This saves a phone call. You might even write down some information for them so they don’t forget it once they get home.

Simplify your vocabulary

Your vocabulary may be familiar to you and your colleagues, but it can be quite foreign to others who haven’t spent years studying medical terminology. Before answering a patient’s question, ask yourself how you would explain it to a teenager. While you might know that a negative test result is a good thing, some people may hear the word “negative” and conclude it as a bad result. Be sure to avoid acronyms and jargon, as well, when speaking with patients.

Be cognizant of the controversial health-care topics out there, and avoid judgmental or inflammatory language. Just stick to the facts, and don’t give your opinion or a lecture.

Make sure everyone understands

Not everyone learns by listening. Some are visual learners and need to see what it is you’re teaching in order to retain the information and understand it. Plus, everyone is distracted nowadays with phones, computers, feelings of anxiety, other people around them, etc. If you don’t feel like you’re being understood, try writing it down for your patient. Jot down the important parts of the conversation and any instructions you have for them. Draw out any pictures or diagrams that may help them understand how to administer certain medications. This will help them remember once they get home.

Keep your cool

While some patients may bring out the frustration in you, do your best to stay calm. Frustration can increase your speaking volume, give your voice a bitter, unfriendly tone, and you may begin speaking faster. As you communicate with patients, check your feelings. Do you feel frustrated or angry? If so, take a minute and cool down. Take a deep breath and gather your thoughts. Then return to your conversation with a calm, friendly tone. Work on controlling the volume of your speaking, the tone, and the speed of your words. Know when to walk out of the room if a conversation gets too heated.

A Member-Owned Company Serving Independent Pharmacies

PBA Health is dedicated to helping independent pharmacies reach their full potential on the buy-side of their business. Founded and owned by pharmacists, PBA Health serves independent pharmacies with group purchasing services, wholesaler contract negotiations, proprietary purchasing tools, and more.

An HDA member, PBA Health operates its own NABP-accredited secondary wholesaler with more than 6,000 SKUs, including brands, generics, narcotics CII-CV, cold-storage products, and over-the-counter (OTC) products — offering the lowest prices in the secondary market.

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