Stepping Out from Behind the Counter… A Pharmacy Business Model for a New Healthcare Era

October 2013, Vol 1, No 1 - The First Word
Donald J. Dietz, RPh, MS

We welcome you to the launch issue of Inside Pharmacy®. The goal of this column is to frame your expectations for the issue. This being the launch issue, we want to share our editorial concept, which is as new as the healthcare system environment in which we find ourselves. Our goal is to help you, the pharmacist, adapt to the radical new conditions driving the practice of healthcare. The complex synthesis of conditions in healthcare’s 3 fundamental sectors―clinical, business, and government―present today’s pharmacists with an opportunity to engage the beneficiary of healthcare’s changes: the patient. Simply put, Inside Pharmacy will help prepare you to reach out to those you now call your customers and make them your patients. By working in tandem with physicians, pharmacists can be the patients’ healthcare “coach” and help them navigate through the confusing information confronting today’s healthcare consumer/patient.

The shape of healthcare is being stretched and patients are receiving a mystifying set of signals: become master of your health, choose and evaluate the courses of treatment rather than take orders from physicians, make up your own mind about taking prescribed medications, choose a health plan that “fits your lifestyle”…whatever that means. While patients may feel liberated from the tyranny of being told what to do by their physician, they could also be isolated from the security that reliance on doctors offered them. Pharmacists can help patients bridge this transition.

The ranks of physicians are dwindling while aging baby boomers swell healthcare consumption, straining healthcare’s ability to reimburse physicians. There is no room for error in an overburdened system, yet physicians no longer have the time to coach their patients. The result is patients who are unsure of how to make sense out of the conflicting agendas of multiple stakeholders and lack an understanding of how to attain the elusive goal of wellness.

These conditions place the pharmacist in a unique position, where it is possible to step forward from “behind the counter” and engage the patient in dialogue concerning the challenges to value-based healthcare. Now more than ever, your advice is welcome and needed. Patients need your knowledge on product safety and the role of formularies and deductibles. They can also benefit from individualized care and wellness-based healthcare interactions.

In short, Inside Pharmacy is filling a pent-up need for you, and through you, for your patients.
With fewer doctors to treat the increasing number of patients, time spent with physicians is dwindling, and more patients arrive at the pharmacy with prescriptions in hand and questions involving their healthcare. You need information at your fingertips to engage patrons thoughtfully and helpfully. If you do, you will transform a customer into a patient and yourself from a commodity into a valued resource that will ensure return business. Providing this personal touch can be possible by increasing your awareness of clinical, business, and government issues.

While patients are often in a hurry for their prescription, opportunities exist for you to engage them. It might be a matter of handing the prescription to the patient with a comment on the importance of compliance with the regimen and the consequences of failure to do so. It could include a question about how the patient has responded to the regimen in the past or what caused the lapse between scripts. You may find that it was cost, quality, or access (the 3 components of value) that delayed continuation of their regimen.

This is just the beginning of what Inside Pharmacy plans to bring you. Inside Pharmacy can assist you in reinventing yourself as a valued healthcare consultant and not just a supplier of medications. It means expanding your focus from medications to the patients taking them—a patient population hungry for knowledge. They need a guide, and you are uniquely positioned for the role. Our remarkable editorial board represents a brain trust of experts from multiple facets of the pharmacy world. We will keep you abreast of the issues at hand so that you can be the pharmacist your patients want and need. The scope of editorials will follow the aforementioned categories: clinical, business, and government developments relevant to the issues patients face.

In conclusion, the time is now for you to “step out from behind the counter” and engage your patients. We will do our part to identify the issues that can help you engage your customers in a running dialogue on health, complementing their physician’s treatment regimens. Working within your time constraints, you can become the valued health consultant your patients seek. Inside Pharmacy will help you every step of the way. The ultimate result of an informed patient is a healthcare system that does not overspend, overpromise, or undertreat. We need your help to convert this knowledge into action.

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Last modified: December 17, 2013
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