The Importance of Fostering Relationships in Our Industry

One thing I think is vital for us all to remember is that to our patients, we as pharmacists are easily the most accessible cog in the gears of the health care machine. Any phone call to your local prescriber is going to be met first with a receptionist, then a wait on hold, then a nurse, then another wait on hold, then finally if you’re lucky the practitioner him or herself. Your friendly neighborhood pharmacist is almost always going to be on the phone within 30 seconds.

Pharmacists also practice in a setting nearly devoid of appointments, save for the odd vaccination or MTM, so patients can (and should!) always drop by and ask questions anytime they like. Because of this ability to freely interact, patients may feel a bit more comfortable developing a strong bond or relationship with their pharmacist. We’ll certainly want to delve deeper into the pharmacist/patient relationship very shortly.

How is the best way, for us as pharmacists, to be as good a steward as possible for both the relationships we form with our patients and for the practices we manage? To us at PharmacyProud, the answer lies within another important relationship set – between you as the pharmacist and the other providers within your community. When we use the term “providers” we mean it to be a wholly inclusive term. Think of the receptionist at the local GP office, the tech that answers the phone at the pharmacy across the street (even though she works for gasp a competitor), the nurse at the clinic downtown, the pediatrician in a neighboring town, and anyone else you can think of as a provider with whom it is vital you bond.

Local providers are your gateway to giving your patients the best possible care. We all have offices that we know we can spend 45 seconds on the phone and any problems are fixed then and there, right? Why not foster a relationship with every provider you speak to daily that allows that? What does it take? Do you go see the office on your day off to ask what you can do for them to make their lives easier? Do you do what John likes to do and bring them coffee or something to munch on when you talk to them, and it seems like they’ve had a bad day? Do you find your own little way to let your providers (and please note this includes other pharmacies in town) know that everything runs smoother when you work together? Do you find your own little way to essentially tell your providers “Listen, this career can be stressful for all of us sometimes. We get it, and we empathize, but we want to be a pressure release valve for you. Send us your problems. We fix problems.”

And that’s my big point here. ANY ole person with a degree and a license can run a pharmacy when all he or she has is the easy stuff. The news here is that the easy stuff doesn’t keep the lights on. The easy stuff doesn’t make payroll. Moreover, the easy stuff doesn’t differentiate you in your community and doesn’t improve healthcare outcomes for your patients. The hard stuff…the stuff that the folks down the street don’t make the time to figure out or the difficult patient…

Wait! Did he just say “difficult patient”? Isn’t this dude supposed to care about his patients? Guys and gals, this isn’t a taboo subject if you look at it from this angle. Your patients did not walk into your door wrapped in protective cellophane before they came to see you. Nobody has to be in a good mood every day, I included. Be a bright light in what could be a dark day even if you know good and well you had nothing to do with it.

Not only is it the right way to operate your business as well as your life, but you’ll enjoy your day more as well. Don’t forget that pharmacies actually, by literal definition, are places where sick people come to get well. Occasionally ill people are allowed not to enjoy being sick. Ok, now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

The problematic stuff makes you successful, both in your goal in being a good steward for your community as well as financially. Be a problem solver. The best problem solvers have the best relationships with the other cogs in that machine. Every interaction you have with one of them should be carefully cultivated much like a seed planted in the field. Water them. Cover them with a cloth if it’s going to be cold at night. Shine your sunlight on them. When the crop isn’t growing, find the right fertilizer. This can be backbreaking metaphorical labor at times, but when harvest time comes don’t we all want to win the blue ribbon at the county fair?

Until next time, I’m Dave and not only am I PharmacyProud…I’m FARMACYProud.