AS I learned in residency, every time something difficult is encountered, you need to look at is as a good learning experience.
Reading this website has been a fantastic learning experience, and more so than I expected. I expanded my understanding and interest in international pharmacy while reading these posts.
The most pertinent thing I learned is that we are one pharmacy community struggling with similar obstacles:
- Access to patients’ electronic medical records in the community pharmacy
- ‘Provider Status’ as it is called in the US guaranteeing a right to payment for our services
- Pharmacist prescribing
- Outcome based versus volume based payment for services
- A lack of public understanding of the potential pharmacists have at providing care
- Interdisciplinary relations
- Education of new pharmacists and continuing professional development for current pharmacists
- Engaging pharmacists in professional organizations
I believe the challenges we all face can be effectively overcome by utilizing the potential of the internet and social media in particular.
1. Learn how to use social media campaigns effectively, in their natural habitat
The first thing we need to do as a profession is learn from the internet. Effective social media platforms and campaigns (buzzfeed, reddit, cracked, college humor etc) need to be assessed and have their style duplicated for pharmacy causes. I think we’re on the right track with #hashtags (which, by the way, I love #pharmacyhour), but I feel like we should not only share our professional side, but the humor in our positions. Sharing some of our more human side could help that. Let’s put on a funny shirt under our white coats!
2. Use social media to educate the public
Once we are able to communicate with the public effectively, by learning their ways, we need to educate the internet. Public education campaigns on what pharmacists ACTUALLY do. As a hospital pharmacist, I have found most of my non-medical friends haven’t the slightest clue what I actually do.
The public needs to be aware of of how we regularly prevent medication errors, prospectively make recommendations to improve care, and serve as a reliable resource for drug information to physicians, nurses, and the public.
Once the public is more aware of what we do on a daily basis, they need to hear more about the potential of what we COULD do if we an overcome our challenges. What interventions could a community pharmacist make if they had access to your entire electronic health record? How could we impact the general practitioner shortage if we were licensed to manage medications once a diagnosis was provided? How can medical teams enhance patient care through using pharmacists?
Then, we need to call the public to action on our behalf to ensure these obstacles are addressed. We need patient champions in addition to physician champions.
We also have a moral obligation to share our knowledge with the world. We have achieved the top educational status available – most people do not have even half the knowledge that we have forgotten since graduating from pharmacy school (nor what we will be expected to learn throughout the course of our careers).
We have an obligation to ensure quality information is given to the public. We should be sharing our expertise in blogs, literature reviews, critiques of news articles, and general wellness tips on social media.
We should also call out information that has the potential to be dangerous. How often have I seen medical advice given out by non-medical professionals and no one questions it? How often does this negatively impact the health of the person who tries it? We need to be pointing this out in our social networks. We need to protect the public from the stupidity of the anonymity provided by the internet. We need to collaborate to ensure that happens.
3. Use the network to network
That brings me to my final point of using the internet to network. It is called the World Wide Web for a reason. As pharmacists all over the world face many of the same challenges, but are in different stages of solving those problems, if we worked together, shared information, critiqued pharmacy practice models, shared successes, and problem-solved failures, we could work more efficiently at solving our common #pharmacy problems.
We don’t need to reinvent the wheel in every country. Let’s duplicate what has already been done, build upon it where problems have been identified, and provide a model for the world to follow.
Ashley Hillman is a hospital clinical pharmacist at the Medical University of South Carolina
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