Advancing technology has really improved our efficiency and ability to do a pharmacist’s job, but unfortunately it overshadows a significant portion of the job which has traditionally been patient contact and care. In pharmacy school, we are trained in patient counseling, but today’s patients simply click “decline patient counseling” as a quick step in the check out process. Technology is wonderful in that it helps eliminate many of the tedious steps that infringe on our time as pharmacists. Theoretically, the more technology we have at the pharmacy, the more time we should have to spare to speak directly with our customers and build lasting relationships. Unfortunately this does not seem to be the case.
In our world of technology, it is quite possible that a patient can go from start to finish with limited or no human contact with a real health care provider. A patient can make an appointment with a doctor online using a patient portal. They can complete a patient questionnaire on a tablet. They can check-in online. They can then see a doctor via Skype or possibly in person for 10 minutes. Today’s doctor commonly e-scribe a prescription to the pharmacy. A pharmacist receives the script via computer and fills it. A patient will receive a text alert that their medication is ready for pick up. Then we are back to where we started- the patient declining patient counseling and simply swiping their credit card to pay.
The patient is on their way in 15 minutes, but where was the conversation? Where was the customer relations? We now believe customer service means super quick, hassle-free service, but customer service used to mean service with a personal touch. It is no wonder that patients are less adherent. Patients likely feel anonymous and less accountable when they don’t have to face someone or answer to a human being. It’s much easier to say no to a computer. When you engage someone in a meaningful conversation about their health and look someone in the eye and they make a promise to you to take their medications as directed, they feel more accountable. I believe they will feel more responsible to keep that promise to you and will likely to increase medicien adherence. What do you think?