According to the Institute of Medicine-Committee on Quality of Health Care in America, the definition of Patient-Centered Care (PCC) is “Healthcare that establishes a partnership among practitioners, patients, and their families (when appropriate) to ensure that decisions respect patients' wants, needs, and preferences and that patients have the education and support they need to make decisions and participate in their own care.”
Today, the concepts of patient-centered care, customer experience, and personalization have finally been linked together and collectively define the heart and mission of today’s pharmacy practice. This specific focus on the patient/customer experience is becoming a growing trend we are seeing across retail chains and independent pharmacies alike. Everyone is striving to figure out how they can better focus on the patients’ unique needs, how to ensure a more delightful customer experience, and how to promote a more personal touch at the pharmacy counter that will engage patients, encourage medication adherence, and inspire customer loyalty.
I believe patient-centered care has always been synonymous with pharmacy practice. This is especially true given the pharmacist’s distinctive role as conduit between the doctor, the patient, and the insurance company. Pharmacists find themselves on the "front line" and in direct contact with the customer every day, addressing patient concerns, reassuring the patient that their medicines are safe and effective, confirming patient understanding of their medicine, and trying to explain the unexplainable world of health insurance.
It’s difficult not to recognize the hard work, time, patience, and dedication that practicing pharmacists devote to their patients every day. So when the healthcare world is buzzing about “returning to patient-centered care,” I’m not truly convinced that pharmacists ever left patient-centered care! Pharmacists are America’s most accessible medical professionals. You don’t need an appointment to walk into your neighborhood pharmacy and approach the counter with a multitude of health related questions. Questions about prescription medications, disease states, insurance issues, and over-the-counter recommendations are all a part of the daily life of a pharmacist. The sheer nature of our job has forced us to always listen to the patient and try to understand and meet their specific needs. Pharmacists are unique because they are healthcare providers, but they are also very closely tied to customer service, which requires a personal touch.
So how does FLAVORx help ensure a more delightful customer experience and promote a more personal touch at the pharmacy counter? It’s not just about flavoring a medicine and making it taste better. It’s about making the whole medicine-time experience better. When we engage someone in a meaningful conversation about their health and their medicine and offer them a choice when it comes to how their medicine will taste, we send them home in a more optimistic and positive state of mind , knowing that at home there will be less stress and struggle related to medicine time. A customer who makes a choice and participates in their own care walks away satisfied, empowered, and I believe more committed to being adherent. That is the ultimate goal of personalization utilizing FLAVORx.
Above all, personalization and customization is becoming an expectation, not just a novelty. Customer demands are changing and as consumers, they are differentiating between experiences, more likely to revisit places where they felt listened to, special, and received that extra touch. There are so many choices of places to go and places to shop, why wouldn’t they return to a place that made them feel heard, offered them the opportunity to personalize their purchase, and ensured them that they would experience less stress? As pharmacists, we are in the perfect position to promote patient-centered care and personalization, and differentiate our pharmacy from others.
As a pharmacist, I want to commend all of my colleagues that embrace their traditional role as a pharmacist, but are willing to learn and evolve into the modern definition of being a pharmacist. In the retail setting, the “modern pharmacist” means health care provider and customer service liaison rolled into one. The concepts of patient-centered care, customer experience, and personalization can no longer be isolated from one another. Therefore our resources and our initiatives at the pharmacy must effectively address all of these aspects in order to be successful. Times change, and so do responsibilities. Priorities change, and so do our resources. Focuses change, and so do expectations.
Nevertheless a pharmacist’s primary responsibility has been and always will be the health and well-being of their patients; it’s how you manage to accomplish this task that will continue to evolve. Redefining the pharmacist’s role and rethinking the simple services we can offer at the pharmacy counter that can have a big impact on medication adherence and patient outcomes is critical. Rethinking and relaunching FLAVORx as a healthcare tool as well as a customer service tool is a perfect example. We must take advantage of the tools and resources that we already have at the pharmacy counter to promote Improved Outcomes + Enhanced Patient Experience + Reduced Costs.