Your pharmacist and their team of pharmacist technicians are an important, but underutilized stakeholder in your Circle of Care

Your pharmacist is the medication expert in your circle of care. Canadian pharmacists have at least five years of specialized training under their belts, giving them a deep understanding of how medications work and interact.

These professionals continually test and inspect drugs to ensure their safety in addition to their patient duties. In some situations, pharmacists administer medication and conduct minor health tests. 

While you may consider your physician to be the top dog on your healthcare team, pharmacists will often influence how other healthcare providers prescribe medication and advise physicians in the development of healthcare plans. 

Simply put, your pharmacist can play a determining factor in your healthcare and health outcomes. That being said, It’s important to know what key criteria to look for in your pharmacist.

What Can Your Pharmacist Do For You?

The exact scope of your pharmacist varies between provinces and territories. Here is a complete breakdown of pharmacist capabilities across the country:

Table of services Pharmacists provide across Canada

Table Adapted from the National Association of Pharmacy Regulatory Authorities

Ask the Right Questions of Your Pharmacist

To make sure that your personal needs are being met, it is important to ask the right questions. From checking the logistical boxes to ensuring personal compatibility, these considerations can guide your search for the ideal pharmacy.

General Considerations:

  1. Convenience: 

Consider the locations and hours of service offered by the pharmacies that you find in your search. Ask yourself if these factors align with your lifestyle.

  1. Customer service: 

While you may assume that interactions with your pharmacist will be limited, these encounters are meaningful and should be treated as such. If your pharmacist doesn’t come off as professional and easy to talk to, they may not be the one for you.

  1. Dispensing speed and accuracy: 

Pay mind to these essential factors especially in the early stages of your relationship with your pharmacist. Consider whether you receive medications in a timely manner and whether your prescriptions are given the way they were ordered. If these factors are inadequate, your pharmacist should be providing you with a rationale.

Key Questions:

  1. Are they approachable? 

Consider whether you feel comfortable discussing your personal health matters with your pharmacist. They should have a helpful and professional attitude that encourages you to bring up your concerns and questions.

  1. Are they knowledgeable? 

When you ask questions, can they provide adequate answers? If your pharmacist seems unknowledgeable about your specific medication needs, you may want to reconsider this aspect of your circle of care. As well, if you are starting a new medication or express uncertainty, your pharmacist should inform you of potential side effects, administration techniques, and other relevant information about your medication.

  1. Do you feel like your concerns are addressed?

Your pharmacists should be addressing the full scope of your medication needs. Specifically, consider if they ask about your medication history when providing you with your prescriptions. Does your pharmacist address how your medications may interact, including naturopathic medicines you may be using?

  1. What is their organizational structure?

Is your pharmacy run by an individual pharmacist?  Are they part of a big chain? Consider these factors and how they contribute to your personal needs. Things like the level of personal connection, frequency of travel, unique medical needs, and more will help you to determine what type of organisational structure suits you best.

  1. Are you dealing mostly with pharmacist technicians or actual pharmacists? 

Head pharmacists will often be supported by pharmacy technicians and pharmacy assistants. Pharmacy technicians provide assistance for the head pharmacist to perform the patient-focused and clinical dimensions of service. They also sometimes give device demonstrations, transcribe verbal orders and transfer prescriptions. Pharmacy assistants file records, replenish supplies and put away drug orders. Depending on your needs, minimal interaction with the actual head pharmacist can become a red flag.

They’re Here for Your Unique Needs 

As you begin to ask the right questions to choose and evaluate your pharmacy, you may discover that there is a gap between your pharmaceutical needs and the type of care you currently receive.

To accommodate the diversity of patient needs, there are a variety of pharmaceutical practices:

Community Pharmacy: This is the most common type of pharmacy. These spaces provide the community with medication and advise safe and effective practices. Community pharmacies also help with the reimbursement of drug expenses.

Hospital Pharmacy: These practices are located in —you guessed it— hospitals. They also exist in medical clinics and nursing homes. A hospital pharmacy collaborates with other health professionals to optimise patient outcomes. They can also be involved in clinical trials, and instruct medical staff and patients about selecting, administering, and monitoring drugs safely.

Clinical Pharmacy: Clinical pharmacies are also located in hospitals, medical clinics or nursing homes. These practices aim to ensure optimal medication use and provide drug information. Another specialised facet of clinical pharmacies is their expertise in predicting drug interactions.

Compounding Pharmacy: A compounding pharmacist may work in a community, clinical or residential-based setting. They produce and prepare medicines in new forms, and also reformulate medications (turn tablets into solutions, etc.).

Consulting Pharmacy: A consulting pharmacist theoretically reviews medication rather than dispensing it. Consulting pharmacists tend to work in nursing homes or conduct in-home visits with patients.

Home Care Pharmacy: These professionals specialise in the preparation and delivery of injectables for critically ill patients.

Managed Care Pharmacy: Managed care pharmacies plan and manage medication in health maintenance organisations. They work in close collaboration with other medical professionals in these organisations.

Insider Takeaway

You deserve an effective relationship with your circle of care, and your pharmacist is a crucial link in this team.

As Canadians with insider perspectives and a desire to be our own healthcare advocates, we can craft a dream team in our circles of care. A great place to start is with your pharmacist!

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