November 12, 2012
“Let the physician and the pharmacist come into closer relationship with each other, work for the good of each other and all concerned will be better off.” This quote comes from a speech given by F.W. Raglan, R.Ph, at an Alabama Medical, Dental and Pharmaceutical Association Meeting. Raglan delivered this speech in March 1909—more than 100 years ago.
The matter of the pharmacist-physician relationship is still as relevant today as it was in the early twentieth century. When you’re able to clearly communicate with physicians in your area, you gain a valuable advantage for your business and even better, you can help your patients achieve optimal health outcomes.
Successful, open and frequent communication between healthcare professionals is the best way to not only avoid the frustrations that accompany busy schedules, but to also foster an environment of respect. When both physicians and pharmacists value the other’s expertise, they are better able to treat patients.
A major barrier in the creation of strong pharmacist-physician relationships is the fact that physicians and community pharmacists work in physically separate environments. Because of this division, their interactions are rarely face-to-face and each fails to understand what the typical ‘day-in-the-life’ of the other is like. Negative stereotypes about what the other does all day, such as ‘she’s just counting pills’, needlessly flourish without an empathetic understanding of each other’s practices or businesses.
Ignorance isn’t the only issue preventing the formation of these important relationships. Many negative confrontations between pharmacists and physicians occur because of a lack of time. Pharmacists and physicians (and nurses and technicians) are all extremely busy. When there’s a prescription error, a hard-to-read script, or a possibly dangerous interaction, a consultation is necessary. Unreturned phone calls or long hold times are frustrating for anyone, but doubly so when a patient feels pressed for time as well.
If patients are directly referred by their doctor to your pharmacy, there is a better chance that they will follow the ‘doctor’s orders’ and pick up their prescription. When they’re doing that, they may have questions about their medication that their physician was unable to answer but that you are more than capable of answering.
Or, perhaps patients have some maintenance concern such as lifestyle or diet changes, or long-term care issues that they are addressing with you (who they associate with their medication), but not their physician (who they associate with examinations, surgeries or other clinical treatments). Pharmacists’ records are more likely to have a patient’s information and prescribed treatments from both primary care and specialty physicians, which paints a broader picture of the patient’s medication history.
The mutual benefits of building a strong professional relationship with the physicians (and nurses) at the clinics and hospitals in your area are obvious to your patients; these working relationships reassure their already deep trust in their healthcare providers, which can lead to healthier outcomes.
Your friendly association with local doctors and nurses not only makes your patients healthier— it can make your business healthier, too. Mike Bellesine, R.Ph and owner of El Dorado TrueCare Pharmacy in El Dorado, Kansas, understands the inherent value of creating strong relationships with local physicians and the nurses and PAs on their teams.
“We have a reputation among local physicians as being very easy to deal with. Many chain pharmacies have corporate policies that make little sense and only result in increased headaches,” Bellesine said. “But before we implement any new policies, we carefully consider whether they’re really needed and what their true impact will be.”
One example of this forethought is El Dorado TrueCare Pharmacy’s delivery service. The delivery service isn’t just for the patients who need extra care; it has a positive impact on El Dorado physicians and their office staff. “If a doctor forgets to sign a Schedule II controlled substance prescription, most pharmacies would simply force the patient to return to the doctor’s office to have the prescription signed. At our pharmacy, however, we’ll usually have our delivery person take the prescription over to be signed.” Bellesine’s simple solution benefits the patient, the physician and the pharmacist.
Creating and implementing services that big box or national chain pharmacies are unwilling to provide is another valuable ability. Being on-call 24/7 is another special feature that El Dorado TrueCare Pharmacy offers physicians (and patients). “Local doctors know they can call us at home if they have a patient in need, even during holidays or weekends when other pharmacies are closed,” Bellesine said. “We don’t limit this service to just our patients as we have found this to be an excellent tool to start developing brand loyalty to our pharmacy.”
“We promote the fact that they can call us with any pharmaceutical-related question and we will drop everything and research it for them, sending them any relevant articles and web reference sites.” Physicians who know that you’re ready and willing to answer their questions about medication are far more likely to ask you those important questions (and answer yours as well). A back and forth relationship is a healthy one to have.
Specialty services and programs and exclusive arrangements with local physicians are great ways to build relationships that help improve your pharmacy business. However, the physicians and nurses at the clinics and hospitals in your area will never know about what you’re doing unless you tell them!
Introducing yourself to physicians is the first step. The next essential step is marketing your pharmacy’s services. This is a surefire way to expose your business to physicians and patients. “A question we’re always asking ourselves is, ‘What do we want to be when we grow up?’” Bellesine said. “We think about what we can do to stand out, how we can honestly help our patients and bring in new customers, too. Giving is what makes us different. When we offer new services and go above and beyond expectations, we’re growing in the right direction.”