Pharmacists' expanding roles
Medication adherence is a major concern in human healthcare. Both pharmacy groups and drugstore chains alike say an enhanced
role for the pharmacist makes it easier for patients to improve adherence. Drugstore chains are training pharmacists to specialize
in conditions like diabetes in addition to teaching them motivational interview techniques that can help elicit patients'
reasons for not taking their medicines.
As veterinarians, we tell ourselves that human pharmacists are not familiar with animal diseases and drugs. They aren't trained
in endocrinology, either—but spending time with a sophisticated computer system and a few hours of education can familiarize
a pharmacist with a great deal of information. In relatively short order, a human pharmacist can be educated and trained to
address animal issues.
Veterinary clinics thrive when they rely on differentiators such as familiarity with the patient and relationships with the
pet owners. This is no different from the independent community pharmacists, especially those who are becoming more proactive
in differentiating themselves from chains. The National Community Pharmacy Association represents 23,000 pharmacies, and it
suggests that members work harder on adherence and building trust and relationships. Their focus will be to support patients
by encouraging better adherence and making patients aware that they are committed to the patient's health and education. They
will facilitate prescription refills and remind patients of the value proposition of a drug, all the while believing that
they must own patient education, adherence and responsibility for patient care.
Unlike the bigger chains, which get a big chunk of their revenue from selling other products, community pharmacies rely on
prescriptions for about 90 percent of their sales. In other words, they're about developing relationships and building trust.
We can—and must—do the same thing. It's important that any veterinary team member who deals with the pet owner is trained
to truly be an advocate for care and to understand the benefits and reasons for treatment and adherence long term. We must
emphasize better reminder systems and call-backs. Placing responsibility and blame solely on pet owners isn't enough. We must
support them in doing the best for their pets.
Dr. Mike Paul is a veterinary consultant and a nationally known speaker and columnist. He is the principal of Magpie Veterinary Consulting.