HealthAugust 29, 2023

Pharmacists can increase patient trust through aligned content

As the pharmacy continues to shift to a care-based experience, pharmacists can improve patient trust by aligning clinical content and patient education materials with traditional care clinics.

Patients are moving towards pharmacists as key members of their care team.

According to the CDC, 90% of the US population lives within five miles of a pharmacy, and patients visit community pharmacists 12 times more frequently than their primary care provider.

This shifting role of the pharmacist — accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic — provides retail pharmacies with the opportunity to use clinical content to harness patient trust, align with shifting expectations, and secure their place as an established member of the care team.

Shifts in care delivery driven by convenience

Access to local pharmacies provide a clear convenience for consumers. In a recent Wolters Kluwer Pharmacy Next survey, 61% of consumers said they could envision using primary care services at a pharmacy or retail clinic instead of a primary care physician. In a follow-up survey, 58% of consumers said they would likely go to the pharmacy for non-emergency care, with Millennials (56%) and Gen Z (54%) leading the way.

Instead of going to an emergency room or a primary care physician for minor health issues like a sports injury or strep throat, patients could go to a local retail pharmacy or health clinic for a diagnosis and prescription.

This is reinforced with programs like Test to Treat, launched by the Biden administration in March 2022 to support Covid-19 testing and treating with approved pills. The American Pharmacists Association is taking it a few steps further with training courses on infectious diseases like influenza and strep, minor fungal infections and skin conditions, and minor viral and bacterial infections.

Reservations remain with pharmacy patients

Despite the convenience, some pharmacy consumers are still hesitant about the changes. The Pharmacy Next surveys also uncovered clear concerns that teams will need to overcome to gain patient trust in this new decentralized care model.

Concerns over pharmacist burnout

As with much of the healthcare industry, pharmacists are experiencing levels of burnout exacerbated by the pandemic. One study from the International Journal of Clinical Pharmacy reported 51% of pharmacists were experiencing burnout and could negatively impact the quality of patient care.

Patients are noticing as well. One Wolters Kluwer consumer survey noted just over half of respondents (51%) were concerned about issues with their medications due to pharmacy understaffing. As pharmacist roles expand, leaders will need solutions to support this demand and maintain trust with patients.

Generational divide in care delivery models

With Millennials and Gen Z leading the way in welcoming decentralized care models, pharmacists will need to address hesitancies with the older generations. When asked if they had visited a local pharmacy within the past year to receive care, 40% of Gen X and 35% of Boomers said they had done so. While older generations may be resistant to change, easy access to pharmacies can help non-emergency care for these populations in the years to come.

Safety concerns with mail-order prescriptions

Consumers continue to look for alternative and non-traditional ways to get their prescriptions to save on costs and convenience, such as mail-order pharmacies. While 67% of survey respondents indicated they would prefer to receive prescriptions by mail or subscription service to cut costs, more than half expressed concerns about tampering (54%) and unexpected interactions with other medications they’re taking (52%).

A trust deficit with department store pharmacies

As consumers diversify their care locations, larger department stores are expanding their offerings to better serve their local communities. However, consumers are still wary, with 79% of Wolters Kluwer survey respondents saying they trust their local pharmacy more than clinic staff at a department store. Pharmacy teams at these locations must demonstrate their ability to provide the same level of quality care available at other locations.

Increasing patient trust through aligned clinical content

With these concerns in mind, pharmacists have an opportunity to increase trust with patients. Two ways they can do this is by proactively aligning clinical information with traditional care centers and providing patients with accessible, user-friendly health education content.

Integrated decision support aligned with primary care clinicians

One way to increase patient trust is with consistent information and instructions between providers. Having evidence-based clinical and drug information that is aligned with a patient’s care team can provide consistent, clear drug instructions. Additionally, with drug decision support at pharmacists’ fingertips in an EHR or mobile device, it can help alleviate burnout issues by supporting patient needs quickly and efficiently within the current workflow.

With non-emergency care needs, a third of Americans surveyed (33%) were willing to accept the convenience of receiving non-emergency care over the credentials or qualifications of the person administering it. Access to leading evidence-based clinical information and guidelines can be a resource for pharmacy and clinical staff addressing the ever-expanding care expectations.

Providing accessible patient education content

According to a Wolters Kluwer patient education survey, nearly half of patients have questions that don’t get answered during an encounter, and 80% said they often or sometimes have follow-up questions after the encounter. Additionally, 80% of patients felt that access to educational materials would make them more satisfied with a provider encounter and 68% said they felt the materials would make them likely to return to a provider.

With patient education content provided during the encounter and as accessible follow-up resources, pharmacists can help mitigate questions and support care after the patient leaves the pharmacy. When the educational content is aligned with leading clinical decision support, patients can receive the same, consistent care information whether it’s coming from a primary care provider, a pharmacist, or a video in their own home.

Proactively meeting pharmacy patient expectations

As the pharmacy continues to shift from a medication dispensary to a care-based experience, teams harnessing leading clinical content can overcome patient hesitations and support their local community in health outcomes and wellness efforts.

Explore how health educational materials from UpToDate (formerly Emmi) can help build trust with patients.

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