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National Diabetes Awareness Month can help promote vital role pharmacists play

The approach of National Diabetes Awareness Month in November offers a timely opportunity for pharmacists and their staff to review the important role they play in supporting the more than 30 million people who are managing this chronic condition and to create loyalty. I’ve identified three things that pharmacies, particularly those co-located with grocery or club stores, can do to support patients as they manage their diabetes.

Nutrition services
Nutrition is incredibly important in a person’s overall health, and eating well and consuming the right foods are essential to patients looking to manage their diabetes. Pharmacists are a natural resource for patients looking to access information and counseling around healthy eating habits. Often, patients express frustration with their dietary restrictions and boredom caused by eating repetitive-tasting meals. Pharmacists can be helpful through these challenging times by providing patients with such resources as a diabetes-friendly shopping list featuring new and diet-appropriate products, or a fact sheet on the benefits of foods that can help regulate their blood sugar levels.

A focus on nutrition services is particularly strategic for pharmacies located in grocery and club stores because of their proximity to relevant departments or products. Pharmacists in these retail settings can walk patients through the aisles and help them pick out the right products to manage their blood glucose levels. These tactics can be executed throughout the year, but increasing and promoting these efforts in November will help catch a customer’s attention and drive customers to the pharmacy to learn more.

Exercise is equally important for diabetic patients. Pharmacists can encourage individuals with diabetes to take control of their health through fitness trackers, which monitor health progress. In fact, over the last four years, the use of health wearables has nearly quadrupled, from 9% in 2014 to 33% in 2018. Through our research, we’ve found that family and friends are incredibly influential in supporting lifestyle changes. This insight is noteworthy as one of the most significant benefits of wearables is the gamification of exercise goals, which is complemented through friendly challenges with other diabetics, co-workers, friends or family. Pharmacists can promote wearables as a tool to ensure patients are mindful of their goals, while having built in a support system through positive reinforcement.

Pharmacies in stores where wearables are stocked in another department should consider using signage or establishing a temporary point-of-purchase display during key promotional months when health trackers may be of the greatest interest — e.g., November for National Diabetes Awareness Month or February for American Heart Month.

Social media
Finally, while wearables can serve as an instant mechanism to track health goals, social media often is the perfect complement. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter provide pharmacists with instant access to their patients. Grocery or club store pharmacists can use social media in November to drive awareness of pertinent information, including FAQs/medication information, healthy recipes, appointment scheduling, etc. By developing a strong online presence on social media, pharmacists can stay top-of-mind in and outside of the store, reinforcing their value with the patients they serve.

Whichever approach is appropriate for you, retailers with in-store pharmacies should realize they have a tremendous asset — a true, integrated healthcare destination right in the middle of their store. By providing all of the connective tissue a patient, particularly with a chronic condition, needs to be successful, pharmacies are creating the stickiness that will ensure patients continue to look to them for their healthcare needs.
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