How to Strengthen Patient-Provider Relationships
As patients become more and more interested in value-based care, they are looking to independent pharmacies to provide them with services that chains can’t offer. Whether it be in filling a compounded prescription, getting lab work done, or simply doing business with a familiar face, patients value the personal care they get and the personal connection they form with their local pharmacist. In fact, a strong patient-provider relationship is the most important component of quality care, according to a 2017 patient survey from the Council of Accountable Physician Practices (CAPP).
The benefits of a strong patient-provider relationship have been well-studied. When a patient feels connected to their pharmacist, they not only report higher customer satisfaction but better health outcomes altogether. Similarly, when a pharmacist maintains a strong relationship with their patients, they experience greater career satisfaction and feelings of fulfillment. They also report lower rates of burnout and fewer instances of malpractice. For all parties, value-based care facilitated by a strong patient-provider relationship is crucial.
Because independent pharmacies prioritize people, they are uniquely positioned to form strong patient-provider relationships. Here are a few tips on how you can spark connections, create relationships, and enable meaningful interactions with patients in your independent pharmacy — so that everyone wins.
In the hustle and bustle of running your pharmacy — from filing reports to managing inventory to maintaining industry standards — it can be easy to lose sight of the real focus: your patients. However, taking a step back from your daily tasks and interacting with your patients, even if only for a few minutes at a time, can make all the difference in strengthening your relationships. In addition, it can boost your mood, bolster your skills and techniques, and make all of your behind-the-scenes work feel worthwhile.
Getting to know your patients doesn’t have to be difficult. On the clinical side of care, start by understanding your patients’ health from the inside out: familiarize yourself with their history, understand their needs, and consider their goals. Before meeting with patients, take the time to review their records so that you can be up-to-date on their information and feel well-prepared for your appointment. Taking this extra step will also allow you to make more informed decisions about treatment options and help you develop a clinical care plan to follow.
On the personal side of care, get to know your patients by expressing genuine interest in them. Basic questions like, “Hi, how are you?” and “How was your day?” go a long way — but as you see patients more regularly, create opportunities for them to talk about their lives, their families, and their hobbies, if they feel comfortable. When you ask patients questions, express genuine interest in their responses, demonstrating to them that you care beyond the clinical level. As you get to know patients better, you will also be more inclined to give them high-quality care. This is why connection matters, especially in pharmacy.
In the world of chain pharmacies, patients are nothing but a number. Community pharmacies, though, look beyond the prescription number and see patients as individuals. When you treat patients, show that you care for them on a personal level — and prove that you are different — by being sensitive to their needs and empathetic to their struggles, health-related or otherwise.
You can facilitate sensitivity and empathy in several ways. First, as you interact with patients, pay attention to both verbal and non-verbal cues that can give a better indication of how they are doing. Make note not only of what patients say but how they say it. Analyze their tone of voice, their body language, and their general disposition; and then respond accordingly.
Second, ask appropriate questions that can help patients express their concerns — find out what they lack, what they need, and how you can help. Third, practice active listening in conversations. Maintain eye contact, use gestures, and express interest in what your patients have to say. Fourth, respond to them in a supportive, affirming way that acknowledges their concerns but gives them confidence that, together, you can find a solution.
One of the most important components of the patient-provider relationship is collaboration. Now more than ever, providers are working to involve patients in their care plans and seeing significant benefits — and you can do the same. By giving patients more control over their own treatment, you can enable them to become active participants in their own health, encourage them to make the right choices, and give them room to find the right solution for them.
In addition, collaborating with patients gives you an opportunity to work closely with them, which improves your relationship and creates a direct line of communication between the two of you. This open communication can extend into other areas of care, as future issues, concerns, and questions arise.
You can involve your patients in many ways — whether it be in setting specific health goals with them, discussing how to formulate a specialized drug for them, or designing a med sync program together to help them increase their medication adherence. To start collaborating, simply express your interest in it and then facilitate opportunities for patients to get involved. Ask for their opinions, input, and feedback and be open to their response. Patients already want to be involved; you just have to let them.
Even when you are unable to see patients face-to-face, you can stay connected with them online, on social media, and on the RxLocal App. With the help of digital platforms, you can make yourself available to patients whenever they need you, increasing your reliability and further strengthening your relationship.
Online, you can keep your patients up-to-date with special events, offers, and other important information via your website. Build, design, and maintain an eye-catching website and promote it in the right places so that you can get noticed by your patients, both old and new alike. Find out how to increase your online presence fast and boost your pharmacy’s reach.
On social media, you can build a following and communicate with your patients via platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. The majority of your patients already use social media, so if you want to reach them, go where they are. To make the most out of social media, tap into RxLocal’s Social Media Assistant for help with creating personalized content, scheduling posts, and staying engaged with your followers.
For a more direct and individualized approach to communication, reach your patients via the RxLocal App. On the app, we offer a fully integrated, HIPAA-compliant messaging system that allows you to respond to patient questions, send reminders, and provide individualized support all within workflow. With the help of the RxLocal messaging system, patients can reach you whenever and wherever they need.
Because independent pharmacies are centered around community, it is essential to stay involved in yours. Being an active member of your community provides you with the opportunity to get to know your patients in a more personal way, allowing you to form lasting connections that transcend the four walls of your pharmacy. Whether it be attending a local sporting event or a hometown holiday party, make time to connect with the people near you.
In addition to being involved in your community, though, you should find ways to serve the people in it. From sponsoring a little league team to hosting a canned food drive to donating to a well-deserving charity, do your part to support your community. When you play your part, your patients will see you as more than a pharmacist and as more than a provider, but also as a person — and that’s where the real connection begins.
If you are looking to enhance your pharmacy’s services, provide better care, and improve your personal satisfaction, it’s time to prioritize strong patient-provider relationships. Patients need support, providers need purpose, and most importantly, people need other people. When it comes to the future of care, connection is the key.
For more actionable advice on effective networking and other tips to fuel your passion for pharmacy, check out the Catalyst Pharmacy Podcast.