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How to choose a good pharmacist

Published 2:40pm Friday, February 28, 2014

By Charity Strothers

For many people, choosing a pharmacist is a simple task, perhaps not even a task at all. They simply go to the most convenient pharmacy that is able to fill their prescription. Many patients take the approach that they don’t choose their pharmacist, they choose their pharmacy.

But how often do you choose your doctor’s office versus choosing your doctor? Your pharmacist and your doctor perform similar tasks in different capacities. Patients should have reasonable expectations of both providers.

When it comes to a patient’s health, there should be established standards. But with little consideration, patients choose not to seek a pharmacist to fit their long-term needs, instead looking for a pharmacy to accomplish their short-term desires: a pharmacy open at the time a one-time prescription needs to be filled, one that is close to home, one with a drive-through and possibly multiple locations.

Many patients allow the monthly incentives that pharmacies offer for transferring new prescriptions to influence which pharmacy they utilize. Though these incentives may be beneficial for that month, it is essential to remember that the ultimate goal is to maximize drug therapy. Drug therapies are most successful when all members of the healthcare team work cooperatively.

Characteristics to seek when searching for a good provider are providers who are easy to talk to, confident in the advice they give and experienced at what they do. Each patient will have unique needs. That makes it vital to first understand what those needs are.

Consider an elderly patient. She may be non-ambulatory, immobile or unable to drive. A pharmacist that offers delivery of medication may be a priority. Alternatively, a busy patient may seek a pharmacist that offers a rapid turnaround for medications. Many pharmacists have 15-minute guarantees. With many of these guarantees, if the pharmacist cannot deliver, they provide gifts for compensation.

Patients who are on numerous drug therapies may choose a pharmacist with a lower volume. Such a pharmacist is able to offer personalized attention. A clinical pharmacist is prepared to evaluate drug therapies for these patients. They create unconventional strategies and set reasonable goals. Some strategies include eliminating drug therapies and substituting alternative therapies.

Whether a pharmacist provides automatic refills, prepackaging, compounding and home infusion, and whether he or she will accept your insurance are all factors to consider. Always look for a provider eager to help and willing to listen. A pharmacist who exhibits good listening skills can find problems that are not obvious.

A pharmacist who is easygoing with excellent communication skills will be the most resourceful. If a patient is not completely comfortable with a provider, he is less likely to share experiences and ask questions. This can reduce compliance with drug therapy, which ultimately can reduce the effectiveness of the therapy.

Charity Strothers is a professional pharmacy student at Hampton University. Email her at cbstrothers@vwc.edu.

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