Train pharmacy techs to have effective conversations with patients
- Pharmacy technicians may not provide therapeutic counseling but can provide information to patients and refer them to pharmacists for counseling
- Providing training and support increases a pharmacy technician’s value to the business and leads to better patient care
Pharmacy technicians represent important members of an independent pharmacy’s staff. With proper training, pharmacy technicians start important conversations with patients. Through these conversations, they identify problems and unmet needs, find opportunities to better serve patients, and effectively direct people to pharmacists for further action.
By providing opportunities for pharmacy technicians to increase their knowledge and use what they learn, pharmacies not only improve patient care but also increase the pharmacy’s revenues, notes Christine Cline-Dahlman, director of education and training for the Institute for Wellness and Education and manager of clinical services for The Marquess Group of Health Mart® pharmacies in Metro Atlanta.
Elevate pharmacy technicians’ performance and drive additional revenue with these five opportunities:
- Chit chat with a purpose. Discover unmet needs and health-related issues through informal conversations. Meeting these needs and addressing these issues with services or products boosts the pharmacy’s revenues.
For example, when a customer mentions an upcoming visit for a young grandchild, the technician might observe, “Mr. Jones, has anyone spoken with you about adult vaccines that protect both you and your grandchild? If you’d like to learn more, I can give you information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Our pharmacists will be happy to discuss the subject further.”
- Become product experts. Does your pharmacy technician know the differences among the various blood glucose monitors offered in your pharmacy? Encourage staff members to learn about product features so they feel empowered to answer questions, explain options and refer patients to the pharmacist for recommendations. Most manufacturers offer product information online, with videos and other tools.
- Seek opportunities for patient care. Pharmacy technicians who understand both their patients’ situations and pharmacology provide an important bridge to pharmacists by recognizing potential issues and opportunities.
Sample technician phone script:
“[Patient name], I’m [Your name] from your Health Mart pharmacy.
We want to ensure our customers remain fully protected. Your immunization records indicate only one of the two recommended vaccines for pneumonia.
Our pharmacist wants to discuss the benefits of that second vaccine. I noticed you’ll be picking up your medications tomorrow. Could we schedule time for the pharmacist to talk with you then?”
Then, remind the patient to wear a short-sleeved shirt in case the pharmacist gives the shot at that time.
- Support patient education. Give pharmacy technicians the knowledge to proactively educate patients about how to better manage chronic conditions. Promote collaboration between trained pharmacy technicians and pharmacists in helping patients with smoking cessation and weight management.
- Help clear insurance roadblocks. “Technicians need to learn how insurance companies establish the reasons they will or won’t pay and how they will pay,” Cline-Dahlman said. With payers increasing requirements for prior authorizations and step therapy, technicians who understand both the medications and the insurance requirements become advocates for patients.
For example, when an insurer’s formulary does not cover a patient’s prescription, the technician may initiate a three-way call with the patient and insurance representative. Resolving such issues ensures patients get the prescriptions they need, thus improving patient care and reducing frustration.
Cline-Dahlman noted a technician who recognized a patient’s refusal to take a medication because of rumored side effects. The technician asked, “Are you concerned that this medication may cause hair loss? Our pharmacist can discuss this with you and provide information about your concerns.” In another situation, a technician identified a patient’s medication for a urinary tract infection, and the pharmacist recommended a nutritional supplement supporting bladder health.
A 2015 study of pharmacy technicians found that those in community pharmacy consider patient counseling the most stressful part of their job.1 Cline-Dahlman asks pharmacists to “show and give techs your approval and permission to advance.” When pharmacy technicians confidently engage patients and help solve their challenges, patients benefit, the technician benefits and the pharmacy benefits.