With tax season just behind us, it’s that time of year where we ask, “Did I get everything I could out of my return?” or “Did I maximize my investments?” These are important financial questions but the same questions can be asked about our own health. Each year we complete our taxes and reflect on the financial decisions we made over the past year. We should be doing the same for our health care decisions, “Am I getting the results I’m looking for from my lifestyle changes?” or “Am I taking my medications correctly?” We get so busy wrapped up in the day-to-day activities that it can be hard to take care of ourselves. And at the end of a long stressful day, a fast-paced doctor’s visit might be overwhelming. Most of us only address recent health problems, like infections, injuries, or emergencies and we often neglect our ongoing health issues.
We live in a society obsessed with quick fixes and convenience, yet many overlook one of the most accessible resources — our local pharmacists. According to Gallup polls from the past several decades, pharmacists are consistently rated as one of the most trusted professions. People turn to their local pharmacist for many different reasons — advice, health education, and help managing complicated diseases. But are we taking advantage of all the benefits our local pharmacists have to offer?
Your pharmacist can provide 5 key services for you:
- Preventative Care: Pharmacists are an access point for screening services for a variety of diseases. They also help you figure out if you would benefit from immunizations. With easy access in most communities, it makes your local pharmacy a one-stop shop for many of your healthcare needs.
- Medication Management: A lot of patients have chronic diseases and a pharmacist plays a vital role in helping with medication adherence. It can be as simple as helping to program cell phone medication alarms, pre-record talking medication vials for the visually impaired, or assisting patients in organizing their medications in a weekly pillbox organizer.
- Medication Review: Pharmacists play an integral role as the final check between the physician and the patient. Sometimes you might feel like you’re stuck playing a game of telephone and many of the details may get lost in translation. Pharmacists can take a comprehensive look at their your medications, evaluating new medications and how they interact with ongoing medications to help make managing all the recommendations from recent hospital stays, regular office visits, and specialty clinic visits easier for you.
- Counseling: Pharmacists work with you to help you understand your diseases, the role of your medications, and side effects to look out for. This increases your ability to consistently take your medications and helps optimize long-term health. Your local pharmacist is also an expert on over-the-counter products for health issues that can be taken care of with self-care, so they can help you answer questions like “How serious is it?” and “When should I see a physician if it doesn’t get better?”
- Collaborative Care: Pharmacists work in partnership with physicians and other healthcare providers to help manage medications for chronic conditions — think high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes — and reduce hospitalizations that can lead to unnecessary costs such as lost wages, caregiver fatigue, and expensive medical bills.
So the next time you visit your local pharmacy, make sure you are taking full advantage of all the things your pharmacist can do for you! After all you put time and effort investing in your health, make sure you’re maximizing your return.
About the Author: Sarah Ross is a fourth-year pharmacy student at the University of California San Diego Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. After graduation, she will be completing her PGY1 pharmacy practice residency at Scripps Mercy in San Diego.
(Article image credit: Mai Le)