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The role of the pharmacist in humanising pharmaceutical care

19 May 2024

In the face of an increasingly automated and technological world of medicine, the role of the pharmacist in providing a humanistic approach to healthcare becomes crucial. Despite technological advances, there is no substitute for the human touch, empathy and communication skills that are the foundation of humanising pharmaceutical care. Developing soft skills in pharmacy practice not only facilitates relationship building with patients, but also has a significant impact on the quality of care and patient satisfaction.

Empathy at the heart of humanistic care

Empathy, or the ability to understand and feel a patient's emotions, is a key element in building trust and effective communication. In pharmacy practice, empathy allows for a deeper understanding of not only the medical but also the psychological and social aspects of a patient's health. This, in turn, enables pharmacists to tailor their advice and support to individual patients' needs and expectations, which is essential in the treatment and prevention process.

Active listening is not only the process of picking up on the words spoken by the patient, but also understanding hidden meanings, emotions and non-verbal signals. For pharmacists, this skill is invaluable in identifying a patient's true needs, resulting in a better quality of care. Through active listening, pharmacists can better respond to patients' concerns, tailor information to their level of understanding and support them in making health decisions.

Effective communication in pharmacy goes beyond the simple transfer of information. It encompasses the ability to clearly, understandably and empathetically communicate complex medical information in such a way that it is accessible to patients with different levels of knowledge. It also means being able to adapt the language, pace of conversation and style of communication to the individual patient's preferences, which is key to building a sense of safety and trust.

To effectively develop soft skills, pharmacists should engage in ongoing education and training. Workshops in interpersonal communication, psychology, as well as specialised courses in empathy and professional ethics can help to improve these skills. Fostering professional development in these areas not only raises the standard of pharmaceutical care, but also contributes to greater satisfaction among patients and health professionals themselves.

Integrated pharmaceutical care

One of the fundamental aspects of integrated pharmaceutical care is collaboration with other health professionals. Pharmacists can initiate and support such collaboration by sharing their knowledge of medicines and their interactions, as well as obtaining feedback from dieticians, psychologists or physiotherapists on patients' health status and progress. Together, they can create coherent treatment plans that take into account not only drug therapy, but also diet, physical activity and psychological support.

Holistic approach to patient health

Understanding that health is a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing, not just the absence of disease, is central to effective pharmaceutical care. Pharmacists, using an integrated approach, can contribute to better management of patients' health by offering advice on healthy lifestyles, disease prevention and self-monitoring of health. They can also refer patients to appropriate specialists if they see a need for support beyond their competence.

Patient education and support

Integrated pharmaceutical care also involves an active role for the pharmacist in educating patients about the importance of particular aspects of a healthy lifestyle and their impact on the effectiveness of treatment. Pharmacists can organise educational sessions, workshops or individual consultations to discuss how a balanced diet, regular physical activity and attention to mental health can support drug treatment and contribute to patients' wellbeing.

Pharmacists can play a central role in coordinating patients' healthcare, monitoring treatment progress and adjusting therapeutic strategies together with other professionals. Through regular contact with patients, pharmacists are able to respond quickly to changes in condition, adjust treatment and inform other members of the care team, making a significant contribution to consistency and efficiency of care.

Patient education as a pillar of humanising pharmaceutical care

Patient education is one of the most important pillars in the humanisation of pharmaceutical care. In the information age, where access to medical data is widespread but often saturated with false or misleading information, the role of the pharmacist in providing reliable, understandable and accessible knowledge becomes crucial. Patient education not only contributes to greater awareness of health conditions, treatment and disease prevention, but also enhances patient autonomy, which is important in a humanistic approach to medicine.

Strengthening patient autonomy

Education is crucial in strengthening patient autonomy, i.e. their ability to make informed decisions about their health. Pharmacists, by imparting knowledge about different aspects of treatment, possible side effects, drug interactions and disease prevention methods, enable patients to better understand their condition and the therapeutic options available. Such knowledge is the foundation for patients to be able to actively participate in the treatment process and co-determine the most appropriate methods for them.

Patient education provided by pharmacists contributes to general health awareness. Information on healthy lifestyles, diet, the importance of regular physical activity and prevention methods for the most common diseases can significantly improve patients' quality of life and reduce the risk of many conditions. Pharmacists, with their knowledge and experience, can provide individually tailored advice that is most relevant to a particular patient, taking into account their health status, age, gender and other relevant factors.

Improving adherence to treatment recommendations

One of the key challenges in healthcare is to ensure that patients adhere to treatment recommendations. Education plays an important role in this, as patients who understand the importance of their treatment and the expected benefits are more likely to adhere to their doctor and pharmacist's recommendations. Pharmacists, through regular consultations and discussions with patients, can monitor their progress, address concerns and motivate them to continue their treatment, which is key to achieving optimal therapeutic outcomes.