Recent debate over who is responsible for the short supply of urine strips reveals some truths about health communication in pharmacy, says Glenn Guilfoyle

Avid readers of the trade press will have doubtless seen coverage over the past month or so surrounding the short supply of urine strip products, and the connection between this and “fad” dieters who are buying them up, denying diabetics in greater need. 

One such editorial urged pharmacists to “screen” enquiring customers by asking if they are diabetic. The clear inference was to withhold sale to “sub-worthies” and reserve stock for “worthies”. 

Whether such an approach is valid or otherwise, it struck me that the messaging in these editorials missed the mark in terms of professional service oriented pharmacies rewarding such customers (fad dieters or diabetics alike!) for coming into the pharmacy and exemplifying memorable professional service at the OTC counter. 

It’s all about the conversations we lead at the health service counters. In the world of growing market share by big box discounters, and the spectre of Amazon and other on-liners, the quality of conversations at the service counters is everything.

You might consider, for example, the growing pool of evidence supporting the effectiveness of diabetes prevention associated with addressing insulin and leptin resistance, metabolic syndrome via diet changes (fad or otherwise!), and host a discussion with the non-diabetic, fad dieter urine strip enquirer about what they are doing and why, and extend that conversation into other advice that you may be able to offer to assist in achieving their goals. 

Then, when the diabetic urine strip enquirer comes in you might be able to host a discussion about the growing pool of evidence re diet specifics as diabetes treatment from the literature and also from the anecdotes you learned from the fad dieters discussions.

A great conversation tip when communicating a solution to any patient that may need some education is the phrase: “some of our patients discussing similar things as you have found that  … specific pieces of advice”. 

You might like to try this conversation tip yourself, using your words that you are comfortable with.  Practice it. Get good at it.

There is something very alluring in making a patient hearing new information for the first time feel like there are things out there that have been successful for people in similar situations. And that the advice giver (you!) has facilitated this solution numerous time before.

I suggest that the consideration of whether to sell urine strips to certain patients over others, without these sorts of discussions does not promote the noble cause of professionally oriented health solution pharmacies.

Glenn Guilfoyle is principal of The Next Level. Click here or call 0418 519 755