The local pharmacist can empower patients to manage their own health and wellbeing thereby reducing the ever-increasing burden on other healthcare professionals.
In a previous article, I argued that collaboration between healthcare professionals like GP’s, pharmacists, patients and drug manufacturers is key to delivering patient-centred care in the NHS.
Recently, Wales introduced a free ‘Choose Well’ app which helps patients choose the best place to get treatment when they fall ill. A colour coded thermometer is used to match patient symptoms with the right service provider whether this is a doctor, pharmacy, dentist or emergency department. The app was developed as a result of patients who still went to emergency departments for treatment even though there was a more convenient service available for their needs. But why has it taken so long for a simple solution like this? Surely more healthcare resources would be saved if patients were knew the right avenue for treatment right from the start?
In reality, the app is further evidence of the lack of communication between healthcare professionals and patients. Patients who have gone to their local hospital for years will not realise that there is a better type of service for a particular treatment unless they are referred to it directly. Often, there is a lack of referral as healthcare professionals themselves do not understand the value that each individual plays in the healthcare system. This automatically means that patients are uninformed about the various benefits of the different healthcare resources that are available. Doctors are viewed as professionals in charge of prescribing treatment while local pharmacists are only seen as the vehicle to get that prescription.
In fact, a partnership between a local pharmacist and a doctor can led to better self-care for common conditions, a safer use of medicines and improved outcomes for patients with long-term conditions. Researchers from the University of East Anglia stated that pharmacists can build a more long-term relationship with patients through regular collection of medicines. Local pharmacists would have a better opportunity, unlike GP’s who have limited resources and time, to look at the need for additional medicines to be prescribed, optimising the doses over time as well as ensuring that the individual patient is adhering to the therapy.
Modern healthcare demands mean that GP’s cannot always guarantee a holistic healthcare package for every patient themselves but can use local pharmacists to deliver this personalised level of healthcare. Appointments or consultations with pharmacists are available to the patient should they want to discuss the management of their medication. The value of local pharmacist in providing personalised treatment for patients can be seen with National Community Pharmacists Association initiatives like 'Script Your Future', a website allowing patients to keep track of their medications and to discuss any problems with doctors or pharmacists virtually. Patients are given control over their treatment and will be empowered to take their medication.
Additionally, local pharmacists or in-house pharmacists can help reduce prescribing errors that doctors make, thereby improving patient safety. Moreover, pharmacists can lead to better commissioning decisions as they are able to gather local knowledge of patients to influence healthcare service design and innovation. A stronger local, collaborative service can ensure a coherent, well-functioning national healthcare system. Local pharmacists are also better placed to have better conversations with patients and so can gather further evidence on their approach to medication and their health literacy levels.
Healthcare professionals need to collaborate better with each other as well as understand that a local pharmacist service is the way forward for patients. Local pharmacists can build better, long-term relationships with the patient to ensure that patients continue to comply with treatment that are specific to their personal needs. An in-house pharmacist is one solution for better collaboration but if there is lack of resources to do this, it is not enough to just provide optional guidance on working with local pharmacists, which has been done before. Healthcare professionals should now have guidelines that demonstrate the dangers of a lack of a collaborative effort with pharmacists for the future healthcare landscape.
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