Customer service is an essential component of a pharmacy’s success. All too often, when we think of customers, we think of the person for whom a medication was prescribed. But there are more persons whom we should consider as customers/clients. First, we can make very plausible arguments that our peers, prescribers, other health care professionals, and any other stakeholder with whom we interact are customers, let alone other people in the pharmacy shopping for OTCs, medical supplies, supplements, and/or sundries. Even more immediate and directly tangent to the patient for whom the drug is intended are the informal caregivers of those patients. Of course, many pediatric patients have more formal caregivers, ie, their parents or legal guardians. Many adults, particularly older adults, have informal caregivers, be it a spouse, relative, or close friend. These persons are the ones often responsible for ensuring the patient’s adherence with medications and who make many of the health care purchasing decisions for these patients.
Look and Stone conducted a study to better describe the medication management activities performed by informal caregivers of older adults.1 Caregivers were commonly involved in 2 types of activities: direct activities requiring physical handling of medications such as obtaining them, preparing pill boxes, and assisting with medication administration; and indirect activities that were more complex and required more of a cognitive effort by the caregiver, such as organizing and tracking medications, gathering information, and making treatment decisions. Much has been said about the stress and medication needs of the caregivers, themselves, as well.
Informal caregivers play a vital role in ensuring safe and appropriate medication use by older adults. This has become more commonplace and will likely continue to do so even more so, as life expectancy increases. The pharmacist should do what they can to elicit social support for patients who have difficulty caring for themselves and also treat informal caregivers with respect, knowing the responsibility they have assumed. Pharmacy managers can ensure that staff are trained and that informal caregivers are provided the tools they need to help patients and can apply innovative marketing strategies to help them with otherwise unmet needs.
Additional information about Customer Service and Applications in Independent Community Pharmacy can be found in Pharmacy Management: Essentials for All Practice Settings, 4e. If you or your institution subscribes to AccessPharmacy, use or create your MyAccess Profile to sign-in to Pharmacy Management: Essentials for All Practice Settings, 4e. If your institution does not provide access, ask your medical librarian about subscribing.
1Look KA, Stone JA. Medication management activities performed by informal caregivers of older adults. Res Social Pharm Adm. 2018;14:418-426.