Pharmacists have never been in a better position to take on the role of chronic disease managers than in the current landscape with the management of people with diabetes. Too many people with diabetes and not enough healthcare professionals to go around has resulted in less than half of diabetes patients achieving good glycemic control and the desired A1C goal of 7%.
Where there is a need there is opportunity. Community pharmacists are in an ideal position to fill the need that patients have in self-managing their disease by becoming the “go-to” pharmacy for diabetes care in their community — the one that can answer all questions about diabetes care or make every attempt to find an answer. The “go-to” pharmacy also carries a higher level of diabetes supplies and has a staff that supports the pharmacist in caring for the diabetes patient.
What changes are needed for this to occur?
One important change is to utilize staff members to the top of their license and abilities, which means delegating repetitive jobs. It also means getting the entire staff to buy into the idea that the pharmacy is going to become the “go-to” pharmacy for all things diabetes.
It also could mean appointing a “chief diabetes technician” to handle such tasks as demonstrating and troubleshooting blood glucose meters, leaving the pharmacist time to discuss the results of a blood glucose value with the patient, or addressing other diabetes-
Another change is to gain the confidence and skills to effectively counsel patients through motivational interviewing, using such core concepts as open-ended questions, empathy and reflective listening. This approach allows the pharmacist to convey the appropriate information to the patient while resolving ambivalence, resulting in better outcomes from behavior change.Pharmacists also need to move from being retail pharmacists to clinical community pharmacists, from dispensing products to dispensing care.
The rewards for becoming the diabetes expert and “go-to” diabetes center in your community? Inheriting what we in our pharmacy term the “$10,000 patient.” If someone with diabetes walks out of our pharmacy because we didn’t win them over with our service and knowledge, we didn’t lose the profit on a couple of prescriptions. We lost $10,000 — the amount we estimate a diabetes patient and his or her family would spend with us on prescriptions, OTC items, vaccinations, education, diabetes shoes and supplies over the next three to four years.
Few, if any, chronic disease patients will spend as much money in your pharmacy as a person with diabetes. An engaged and informed staff can help recognize these customers, and help increase their loyalty through special services offered, engaging them at every opportunity and being knowledgeable about the special products that people with diabetes require.
The successful “go-to” diabetes pharmacy will become as creative in working with its diabetes patients as the airlines are in dealing with their best customers. The end result is a pharmacy that is recognized throughout the professional, as well as the lay community, as a resource for all areas of diabetes care.
The need for diabetes care is great. The opportunity to become the profession that fills the gap of needed care is sitting in front of us. I hope you set as your goal for the coming year to join me in becoming the “go-to” center for diabetes care in your community. I think you’ll find the efforts and overall rewards, both financially and professionally, well worth it.
Jerry Meece is director of clinical services at Plaza Pharmacy and Wellness Center in Gainesville, Texas.