The Art of Patient Counseling

In today’s pharmacy, patient counseling is vital. Research shows that it can help improve patient adherence. The trick is to move out of the old model of care of telling people what to do. Stop reciting medical knowledge. Instead, use a more conversational approach.

Here are some strategies you can use to help hone your counseling skills in your pharmacy:

Build Stronger Relationships

You may enjoy your time behind the counter filling prescriptions, but your customers want to see your face and get to know you. Make a point of using your interpersonal skills with your patients. Relate with them and provide information that’s on their level. This will have the best impact. Make patient counseling the new norm for each new prescription. This helps you establish an interpersonal relationship with your customers.

During patient counseling, inform your patient about the medication they’re taking. Be clear and concise. Tell them what the medication is for, how often their doctor instructs them to take it, and relevant side effects. For example, if a patient is taking the cholesterol medication, simvastatin, they cannot drink grapefruit juice at all. If they do, it could result in potentially extreme reactions, including death.

Communicate Differently

While you don’t always have time to put toward establishing interpersonal relationships, you can restructure the communication you have with your patients. When patients are resistant to change, it’s usually caused by incorrect knowledge. They feel fine, so they don’t understand why they need to take the medication. To combat this, ask your patients open-ended questions in a nonthreatening way. Make eye contact regularly to make sure your patient is engaged in what you’re saying. By doing this, you’re in a better position to intervene and respond to their concerns in a conversational manner.

The teach-back strategy also works. If you have a patient with asthma, you can teach them how to use an inhaler properly. Then, have them demonstrate what they’ve learned by having them use the inhaler. When your patients truly comprehend their therapy, they’re much more likely to follow through with it.

Patient Privacy

Be mindful of your surroundings during patient consultations. Your patients trust you with their health and sensitive information. So, pay close attention to the volume of your voice as you’re speaking  with them. Use a reasonable volume so your patient can hear you but other patients can’t. If someone is hearing impaired, find a quiet area away from others, preferably with a closed door.

Mobile apps are another great way to help with patient counseling, as they further ensure privacy. These apps allow you and other independent pharmacists to provide patients with consultations outside of your store.

It Takes a Team

You don’t have to be the only person in your pharmacy who educates patients on their prescriptions. The entire pharmacy staff can play a role. Your techs and clerks can make sure patients don’t leave without speaking with you. In addition, you can hone your communication skills by paying attention to how other pharmacists speak to their patients during their patient counseling sessions.

Future Communication

Counseling your patients is more than just educating them. You’re also making sure that they’ve heard and understood your message. You can help your patients retain the information you’re giving them by asking open-ended questions or providing resources. Give them written instructions, calendars outlining complex dosing regimens, or video links that help reinforce a critical skill. Tools like this can help answer additional questions patients may have once they’re home. And don’t forget to let them know how to get in touch with you again with any concerns or questions. This is what builds their trust in you.

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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Elements is written and produced by PBA Health, a buy-side solutions company.

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