Healthcare is confusing, especially for patients who have been recently discharged from the hospital or diagnosed with a chronic disease.
Because pharmacists are the healthcare professionals that patients see most often, they are in a unique position to provide guidance and education during a confusing time.
Patient education may require a large investment of your time, but for your patients, it is worth its weight in gold. Here’s why you should consider amping up your patient education efforts.
Attracts new patients
Educational programming could serve as a draw to bring new patients through your pharmacy doors. Someone who gets their prescriptions filled at a chain pharmacy down the street may be intrigued by a nutrition class at your pharmacy.
When they attend the program, you have a chance to not only educate them on the advertised topic, but also the benefits of using an independent pharmacy. With any luck, you’ll have a few people eager to transfer their prescriptions at the end of a class.
Improves patient satisfaction
When you provide patient education, you’re telling your patients that you care about their health. It’s an opportunity to get more face time with them and develop a personal connection — which is something the big box stores can’t do.
By giving patients all the educational tools they need to maintain their health and patiently answering all their questions, you’re empowering them. That’s something they won’t forget.
Improves outcomes for chronic illness
Patients living with chronic illnesses need instruction to manage the day-to-day intricacies of their disease.
Education can help them recognize how their body is communicating with them. They can learn what sort of lifestyle changes they can adopt to stay healthy, what interventions they can make when they are not feeling well, and recognize when they need to seek outside help.
The Mayo Clinic recently found that heart failure patients with low health literacy had a higher mortality rate, so educating patients with chronic illnesses can literally be life or death.
Encourages preventive care
Proactive patient education can also circumvent future illnesses. Patients may not know why a blood pressure screening or a flu shot can be so important. But education can encourage them to act and prevent them from getting sick (or catch illness early so it’s easier to treat).
Many patients may not know what an A1C screening is, for example, so they will assume that they don’t need one. When someone at the pharmacy explains it to them, they may decide to do the screening after all to alleviate any fear of developing diabetes.
Reduces patient costs
When patients know how to take care of themselves, they will have to make fewer visits to the doctor — and most importantly, they’ll have fewer trips to the hospital.
They will also have a better understanding of what needs urgent attention. Without education, a patient might make a trip to the ER for what they think is an urgent issue, only to find out that it’s something they could have taken care of at home.
Overall, education will reduce patients’ healthcare costs by minimizing trips to the doctor.
Increases pharmacy income
Patient education isn’t only good for patient health — it can also be good for the financial health of your pharmacy.
There are many patient education services that you can be reimbursed for providing. Medication reconciliation, for example, can help patients understand their medications, but it’s also a reimbursable service.
Chronic care management, in which pharmacists check in with patients who have chronic diseases for a certain amount of time every month, has a CMS reimbursement of $64.03 for 20 minutes of work with patients.
Disease state education for specific conditions, like diabetes education, is also often a reimbursable service.
How to educate patients
Not sure where to start with patient education? Use these strategies to reach people with important information about their health:
- Formal programming: Hold classes, or bring in health educators to conduct classes, on managing the specific health issues that are facing your community.
- Pamphlets: Print relevant pamphlets to hand out in your pharmacy. Translate them into multiple languages in order to reach as many patients as possible.
- Follow-up texts and calls: For patients who have been recently discharged from the hospital or diagnosed with a chronic illness, follow up on their progress by sending a text or making a quick phone call.
- Online education: On your website, aggregate as many educational materials as possible. You may not be able to print out a pamphlet for every illness, but you can have a much larger list of resources on your website.
- Counseling: Be patient during prescription pick-up so patients have all the information they need. Ask patients to repeat the information you’ve told them to make sure they’ve comprehended everything.
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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.