The evolution of pharmacists into providers is nothing new. An ongoing shortage of primary care physicians, coupled with changing patient expectations, has required pharmacists to focus more on patient care than ever before. While achieving full provider status will require changes to federal legislation, there are plenty of ways your independent pharmacy can step up to the plate now. Doing so will benefit not only each patient who walks through your door, but your staff and your business, too.

Culled from some of our Pharmacist to Pharmacist interviews, here are insights from four experts on how to embrace the evolution of pharmacists into providers.

1. Offer more clinical services

With a shortage of primary care physicians, many people look to pharmacists for routine health services and medication counseling. If you aren’t doing so already, start providing more of these clinical services at your independent pharmacy. Mark DeWoskin expands on this in "Why the Future of Your Independent Pharmacy Depends on Patient Care." DeWoskin, the regional franchise director for Health Mart, says you should start with tangible services that add value to the patient experience. Consider adding clinical services such as:

  • Comprehensive medication reviews (CMRs)
  • Disease management
  • Vaccine programs
  • Point-of-care testing

"Everything we’re talking about is within the scope of practice for a pharmacist," DeWoskin notes. "They are very capable of providing clinical services. [And] most are excited to do more for their patients. They’re also excited that payers will reimburse them for their knowledge and skills." Adding more services will benefit your patients and your staff, who get the chance to provide more one-on-one care.

2. Become a trusted resource for patients

At the heart of the expanding role into providers is the trust that pharmacists build with their patients. If your staff is used to simply counting pills and having limited interaction with patients, how can patients view them as a provider resource? Now is the time to truly position yourself as a trusted resource for patients. Nancy Gallo speaks to this point in "How Your Chain Pharmacy Can Stay Ahead of a Changing Market." Gallo is the senior director of sales support for McKesson Pharmacy Systems. She believes that a strong foundation of trust is crucial to prepare your pharmacy for the future of patient care. "There’s an inherent trust between patients and their pharmacists because they spend so much time together; we just need to take it to the next level," Gallo says.

How can you do this? Start training your staff now for increased one-on-one time with patients. If they’re used to staying behind the counter, help train them so they’re ready to take on more provider responsibilities. Work on establishing a closer relationship with each patient who walks through your door. Use individualized attention to build those strong relationships and become a go-to resource for your patients beyond dispensing their prescriptions.

3. Embrace changing roles at your pharmacy

For many pharmacists, taking on more provider responsibilities is a welcome change. Vickie Andros discusses this in "Overcoming Financial Challenges at Your Independent Pharmacy." Andros, the product manager for RelayHealth, notes that it is truer to many pharmacists’ training. "I think most pharmacists are eager to make the transition," Andros says, "because it’s what their training is based on. And by and large, most are excited to move away from the more frustrating tasks that have become part of their job toward more patient-care related activities. Today’s pharmacist has to be on the phone with payers and handle a lot of administrative tasks that likely aren’t their favorite."

When preparing your pharmacists to take on provider-like responsibilities, explain that this shift will bring new opportunities for them to practice different skills. Take some time to assess which staff members may be most eager to get out from behind the counter and participate in services such as CMRs or other patient counseling services. Having open conversations with your staff about increased responsibilities can help quell any uncertainties and get them excited for the opportunities the future may bring.

4. Help patients with their health proactively

Pharmacists are used to helping people when they’re sick. But stepping into a provider role means helping patients stay healthy and prevent disease, too. In "Why Efficiency is Crucial to Your Independent Pharmacy’s Success," Steven Oh says independent pharmacies are primed to help in this area. Oh, the regional director of pharmacy performance for Health Mart Atlas, says having a close relationship with patients allows independent pharmacists to help in more ways than ever before. "We are the most accessible healthcare providers out there," he explains. "Patients spend more time with us than their doctors. The number of touchpoints is tremendous. And each touchpoint is a chance to work with a patient on their health."

Consider each touchpoint you have with a patient as a chance to help them prevent sickness, not just treat it. When they come in to pick up a prescription, you can point out new supplements that might be appropriate for them. You can mention preventive vaccines for things like shingles or the flu. And you can ask questions and lend an ear when patients give you information about their health. You’re not just there to refill their prescriptions. You’re there to help them feel their best.

When you embrace the evolution of pharmacists into healthcare providers, you and your staff make even more of a difference in your patients’ lives. Patients come to rely on you as part of their healthcare team. Your staff gets to practice new skills. And your business gets return customers who see even more value in what you have to offer.

Related: Learn more about McKesson’s patient adherence and wellness services

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McKesson editorial staff is committed to sharing innovative approaches and insights so our customers can get the most out of their business solutions and identify areas for operational improvement and revenue growth.

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