Communication and Caring

Published 03/01/2019
by Kathryn Edwards

Taking the time to communicate effectively and compassionately with patients – listening, answering questions, and providing sound advice – is the cornerstone of a strong specialty pharmacy program. This story, relayed by one of our pharmacists who specializes in neurological disorders, underlines the importance of building strong relationships, face-to-face communication, empathy, and engagement:

“I have built a particularly strong relationship with one of our patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). When I first met her, she was not on any form of treatment. She had originally started therapy with an injectable medication but had been unable to sustain that regimen effectively. She was relying on alternative treatments to try and combat her condition. Her neurologist and I worked with her to communicate the importance of stabilizing her condition and eventually prescribed a daily oral medication. Thankfully that approach worked and her condition rapidly stabilized.

Unfortunately, as we continued to monitor her condition we started to see concerning lab results related to her immune system. Even after we lowered her dose, we still saw an unacceptable risk and had to start the process of reviewing a change in therapy. Her physician initially suggested moving to an infused medication, but she vehemently rejected that approach because she equated ‘infusion’ with chemotherapy. I spent lots of time with her helping her understand why we needed to make the switch, why we believed an infused medication would be more appropriate, and what the other options were. I helped her understand the choices she had and addressed her questions about the positives and negatives of each approach. We sort of ‘nerded out’ on the various options for a while since she was a very inquisitive person. I had the relationship with her to do that – she trusted me because we knew each other well and had built a strong bond over time. She told me “I knew you would listen, give me straight answers, and help me make the right decision.”

She opted to go back to the injectable medication and remains adherent and stable with her MS. My experience with her underlines that, in the end, my job is to be a great communicator as much as a great clinician. We have to remember our job is focused on the person, not the prescription. How does each individual want to be treated, communicated with, listened to? We have to take the time to understand that to give them the best possible experience.”

How can you ensure your patients have access to resources like this to help with their treatment decisions? Read our recent article to find out why making pharmacists available as part of the integrated care team improves outcomes in chronic care management.