Skills Necessary for Pharmacist-Patient Communications

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  • 0:03 Pharmacist-Patient…
  • 1:11 General Rules
  • 3:31 Literacy Issues
  • 4:16 Sensitive Topics
  • 5:42 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

In this video, we'll go over some basic strategies for ways pharmacists can improve their interactions with patients in general, patients with low literacy levels and patients with sensitive medical conditions.

Pharmacist-Patient Communication

Imagine that you've just left your doctor's office with a prescription for some medication. When you go to pick up the medication at the pharmacy, no one says anything to you. They just hand you the bag with the medication and take your money, and send you on your way.

At home you examine the label on the prescription bottle. It says:

'Prednisone 250 mg tablets. 1 tablet q12h PO.'

What does that mean? If you're in the medical field, you know exactly what that information means and what you should do. However, the vast majority of people may be flustered or irritated, to say the least, and because people often don't want to appear ignorant, they may not ask the questions necessary for understanding the information on a prescription label. As a result, people may use medication the wrong way, either overdosing or under-dosing, which can lead to serious health-related problems.

This is why proper communication between pharmacists and patients is critical.

General Rules

Proper education and counseling for patients about treatment regiments is critical both to their health and successful treatment outcomes. Remember: you are a pharmacist. You speak a different version of English, one that includes medical jargon. However, most people do not understand that jargon. As such, one of the most critical aspects of communication with patients is the use of plain English. In other words: keep it simple. Instead of 'take 1 tablet q12h PO,' prescription instructions for the lay public typically state: 'take 1 tablet every 12 hours by mouth,' which is effectively saying the same thing but in non-technical lingo.

Keeping it simple is just one 'S' of effective communication with, and education of, your patients. The four other 'S's are:

  1. Keep it short. Even when using simple language, people can lose interest or attention to what you're saying. Keep your message to, at most, three important items. While not always possible, try to keep information and instructions to a minimum. Use shorter words and sentences as well.
  2. Be specific when you're communicating with patients. When you're specific with your information, patients tend to remember more of what you say. For example, instead of saying 'people take this medication once every 12 hours' you can say something like 'you should take this medication once every 12 hours.' Or, even better, 'take one tablet at 8 a.m. and one tablet at 8 p.m. every day.'
  3. Summarize. Remember how repetition helped you learn how to spell things or multiply better in school? So make sure you summarize the message you want to get across by repeating the most important parts of your message.
  4. Be sincere. If you are friendly, genuine, and warm, people will be more likely to follow your advice and trust what you say. This is important, as some people may not be too happy about taking a medication; if you can gain their trust, they will be more likely to adhere to a treatment regimen that truly benefits them.

Literacy Issues

With regards to educating people, some patients may have difficulty understanding even simple written material. This could be due to a language barrier. Remember that even if instructions are written in simple English, someone may know hardly any English at all! One way to counter literacy issues is to provide instructions in the patient's native language.

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