10 Times You Should See a Pharmacist Before a Physician

10 Times You Should See a Pharmacist Before a Physician
February 18, 2022
RxLocal Team

When you’re dealing with an accident, injury, or seasonal sickness, you probably follow a familiar set of steps.

First, you pick up the phone and dial your doctor’s office. You schedule an appointment and walk into a waiting room. After a short wait, you go in to see your family physician. Like clockwork, you get a quick check-up, a proper diagnosis, and a treatment plan. Then, you get sent out the door feeling satisfied.

This should be the life cycle of a doctor’s appointment — quick, simple, and seamless — but in most situations, it’s not always that easy.

In reality, doctor’s appointments can be tricky to schedule and sticky to get through quickly. When you schedule, you might have a hard time getting in (with appointments days to even weeks away). When you get in, you might experience long lines and wait times, and at the end of it all, a hefty bill to seal the deal.

Doctors are essential, but in many cases, there’s another healthcare provider you can turn to first: your local community pharmacist.

Pharmacists are the most accessible healthcare providers of all.

Down the road, across the street, and right in the midst of your community, you can find a pharmacist — a pharmacist who’s more than willing to help you handle minor illnesses, figure out treatments, and answer all of your most pressing questions. No long lines, hassles, or high out-of-pocket costs necessary.

Here are 10 situations where you should see your pharmacist before your physician:

1. When you need a flu or strep test

Pharmacists aren’t just there to fill prescriptions. In reality, they can perform many of the same procedures that doctors can. That includes point-of-care testing.

If you suspect you have an illness, like influenza or strep, you can head to your local pharmacy to get a point-of-care test (instead of trekking to the doctor’s). If your test comes back positive, your pharmacist will refer you to a local provider to get a prescription. If it comes back negative, they will recommend over-the-counter treatments to help you get to feeling better faster. Either way, getting tested at a local pharmacy can get save you time and money.

To find out if your pharmacy offers point-of-care testing, look to the RxLocal Pharmacy Finder and see which services they have available.

2. When you need a vaccine

Odds are you got your COVID-19 vaccine at a community pharmacy close by, but did you know that you can get vaccinated against other common illnesses at the pharmacy, too? Depending on the pharmacy you go to, you can get a jab for flu, strep, hepatitis A and B, HPV, MMR, and more — and you can do it in half the time it would take you at the doctor’s.

Find out which vaccines your pharmacy offers, then schedule an appointment using the RxLocal Vaccine Scheduler.

3. When you need to manage aches and pains

Some pains may be cause for concern, but minor aches can be managed with over-the-counter meds and supportive care.

Before you make a doctor’s appointment, head to your pharmacy and look for products that can ease your aches and pains — whether they be pills or personal massagers. If you need help finding a product for your specific pains, don’t be afraid to ask your pharmacist. They can help you find the best items to get relief.

4. When you have a seasonal illness

Seasonal illnesses affect almost everyone, especially during cold and flu season.

Whether you have a cough, cold, or any other seasonal illness, you can stock up on the items you need at the pharmacy. Get pharmacist-recommended medicine, cough drops and Kleenex, and anything else you may need.

Once again, if you need help finding the right item, ask your pharmacist. They can help you make sense of your symptoms and find the products you need.

5. When you need help handling long-term conditions

If you’re managing a chronic condition, your pharmacist should be your first line of defense.

Not only will your pharmacist keep you up-to-date on the medications you need, but they can help perform tests, take measurements, and monitor your symptoms alongside you — saving you a trip to the doctor’s office.

If you have high blood pressure, for example, you can go to the pharmacy to get your measurements, stock up on your medicine, and discuss any symptoms you may be having.

It’s a quick, convenient way to manage your condition and keeps you safe between appointments.

6. When you have questions about a medication

Pharmacists are experts on prescription medications, with a deep understanding of how they work, what they do, how they can interact with other drugs, and how they can affect you.

If you have any questions about any medication you’re taking (new or old), you can phone up the pharmacist and get your questions answered.

Or, if you need to discuss your treatment plan, you can set up a one-on-one meeting with the pharmacist and have a conversation. Your pharmacist can help you make sense of your medication and ensure that you feel comfortable with what you’re taking.

Personalized appointments are just another reason to love your local independent pharmacy.

7. When you need creative ways to take a medication

75% of Americans have trouble taking their medications as prescribed, but your pharmacist can help you come up with ways to stick with your treatment plan.

If you have a hard time swallowing pills, they can offer you other solutions. If you have trouble taking your medications at the same time every day, they can help you set up a schedule. And if you have a hard time getting into the pharmacy to pick up all your meds, they can make sure that you can pick them all up at the same time every month.

8. When you need a medication injected

Some medications — like insulin, blood thinners, and many fertility drugs — need to be injected, either by you or your healthcare provider. If you need to get a drug injected, or if you need to learn how to do it yourself, you can turn to your local pharmacist.

They can walk you through the process and make sure that you follow the right steps to make the most out of your medication.

9. When you want to save money

Pharmacies aren’t only accessible: they’re affordable. Many of the services that pharmacies offer — from tests to treatments to patient counseling — are much more inexpensive than they are at a doctor’s, nurse’s, or specialist’s office. In some cases, these services are even free.

If you’re struggling with ways to pay for your medications, your pharmacist can help you get discounted drugs or sign up for prescription assistance programs. Learn how you can save money on your medications.

10. When you’re not sure if you should see a doctor

Your pharmacist should be your first point of contact when you have a health concern, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they should be your last. If you’re looking to get quick input, advice, or another opinion on if you really need to see a doctor, talk to your pharmacist. They can help you decide if you’re dealing with something minor, which they can help you with, or if you need to take the next step and schedule a doctor’s appointment.

When you need an expert opinion, call your pharmacist.


For some health concerns, a doctor isn’t always necessary. Before you take the trouble to schedule an appointment, call up your local pharmacist and find out how they can help. Don’t have a pharmacy, or looking to find a new one?

Look to RxLocal’s Pharmacy Finder to get matched with a pharmacy that can meet your needs and help you achieve better health.