Better patient outcomes start with better conversations

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7 techniques for better conversations with patients

In brief:
  • What you say to patients can improve their adherence and outcomes.1
  • Asking three questions is far better than lecturing.
  • Plan counseling over time for patients with chronic conditions.

Conversations with patients are critical to building relationships and improving outcomes, and they don’t have to be long to be effective. Here are seven tips for making your conversations even more impactful.

1.Talk about every new prescription.

Counsel all new patients as well as long-time patients with new prescriptions. At least one state already requires this action.2 You strengthen relationships by showing that even when you are busy, you are committed to ensuring that every patient walks out knowing exactly how to use their medications.

2. Ask, don’t tell.

By having patients answer three simple questions you can more than double the number of patients who understand their medications, one study suggests.3 It takes only about two minutes for you to ask and have patients answer these questions.

3. Junk the jargon.

Talk to people, not patients. Use words a fifth-grade student would understand.

Don’t assume everyone understands things the same way.“Three times a day” may mean every eight hours to one person and could mean breakfast, lunch and dinner to another. Instead, ask “When will you take it?” Then clarify any instructions.

4. Make it visual.

Handouts are helpful, but consider visual ways to convey information. For example, show A1C levels on a chart. You can also make patients aware of devices (like Fitbit or the new Apple watch) that track visualized personal health information.

5. Ask open-ended questions.

Before trying to solve an adherence problem, first understand why a patient isn’t taking a prescription.

Through open-ended questions you will identify issues and can then work with the patient on solutions.

6. Discuss lifestyle, but not all at once.

Explain what may happen if they don’t control their condition, such as diabetes.

But don’t overwhelm a patient with too many questions or too much information in one session. Talk over time about diet, exercise, smoking cessation and alcohol, and how your pharmacy can help them in these areas.

Use reminders in your pharmacy system to ensure you touch important topics and follow up on earlier conversations.

7. Check for understanding.

Have the patient explain to you in his or her words, or show you the proper way to take a medication.

As your pharmacists and techs discover phrases and aids that work best with patients, have them share best practices.

Conversations matter

It doesn’t matter how good the medications are if patients aren’t taking them properly. Conversations are a critical component in caring for your patients, so make every chat count.

1 “The Role of the Pharmacist in the Management of Type 2 Diabetes: Current Insights and Future Directions,” Jeffery David Hughes, Yosi Wibowo, Bruce Sunderland, and Kreshnik Hoti,Integrated Pharmacy Research and Practice, Jan. 16, 2017. LINK; “The Role of the Pharmacist in Hypertension Management,”>LINK; “The Role of the Pharmacist in Hypertension Management,” K.E. Di Palo and T. Kish, Current Opinion in Cardiology, July 2018.LINK
2 “Four Ways Pharmacists Can Improve Patient Counseling Skills,” Drug Topics, May 25, 2018. LINK
3 “Interactive Pharmacist Counseling Improves Understanding of Prescribed Drugs,” U.S. Pharmacist, Jan. 20, 2016. LINK
4 “Understanding Average Glucose, Standard Deviation, CV, and Blood Sugar Variability,” Adam Brown and Divya Gopisetty, Diatribe Learn, Oct. 10, 2018. LINK