Why pharmacists need to change their thinking

smiling pharmacist

The expanding role of community pharmacists—from making medicines to optimising outcomes—will require a shift in thinking, writes Vanessa Lontos

Recently the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP), whose role is to advance pharmacy worldwide, released a report titled” “From making medicines to optimising outcomes: The Evolution of a profession 1912-2012”.

The report explores many areas including trends and changes occurring in global health, the important role of community pharmacy in illness and disease prevention and the expanding role of the pharmacist from medication advice to optimising health outcomes.

Upon reading this report many ideas really resonated with me, and I felt both inspired and energised regarding the role community pharmacy plays in the overall health and wellbeing of people, communities and nations.

However, I also felt a little overwhelmed, because often in the day-to-day running of today’s community pharmacies it’s very easy to also find pharmacists and staff who are burnt out, feeling pressured and confused about how to expand into this new role, and uncertain about what the future holds with it.

The report states: History indicates that to continue to be relevant to 21st century needs, pharmacists must offer timely and economic ways of solving contemporary health problems and go on attracting public and political support.

Pharmacy’s ongoing success will ultimately depend on its members abilities to recognize and publically communicate that what matters most to them is preserving the lives and optimizing the wellbeing of the people and populations they have the privilege to serve.

So how do you continue to remain relevant and successful and continue to expand to optimise the health outcomes for your patients both now and in the future?

Over the past 15 months I have had the privilege of working closely with a group of pharmacists and pharmacy assistants, exploring this very idea of optimising patient outcomes and how to do so.

Through coaching, training and observation at the coalface, the one technique that has stood out and shown to be the most influential in communicating to your patients that you are able help them achieve better health outcomes is in your ability to expand what I like to call your ‘counseling comfort zone’.

In essence, this involves bringing patient-centred care and patient engagement into every patient interaction.

It means learning how to ask different questions and discuss broader areas of health in a way that connects with your patient’s unique and personal circumstances.

Let’s consider a patient with arthritis. When counseling them it’s important to not just think about the medication but who is the person living with the arthritis and what are they thinking, feeling and doing to manage the condition and their medications?

Before focusing on yourself and what you need to tell them, start to think about who they are and what they might be feeling, needing and doing.

To publicly communicate with our patients that what matters most to us is preserving their lives and optimizing wellbeing we must first expand ourselves and only then can we truly embrace a collective new role.

As Socrates once said, “ The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new”.


Vanessa Lontos is a community pharmacist and the founder of The Care Project. She helps pharmacy owners, pharmacists and pharmacy assistants to engage with their patients to promote better health outcomes, whole-health solution sales and professional pharmacy services.

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