6 Tips For Your Hospital to Improve Patient Counseling

Pharmacy solutions designed to impact patient care

Whether in a hospital setting or outpatient/retail setting, pharmacists are increasingly responsible for educating patients about their medications.

The good news is that patient education offers many benefits to the patient and organization alike. It improves the chances a patient will have a positive experience with their medications and the hospital, improves adherence and outcomes, and helps avoid drug misuse and non-compliance.

What’s more, a robust patient counseling program has been shown to improve a hospital’s HCAHPS scores when patients feel that they understand the medications taken during their hospital stay, those drugs given to them upon discharge, and were adequately prepared for common side effects.

Work With Pharmacists To Develop A Patient Education Program

A successful patient education program requires some advance planning and that pharmacists work on their unconscious biases, build patience and diplomacy skills. After all, hospital patients can be in pain, distracted or simply not at their best.

Patients need to trust that their care team isn’t going to judge them because of the medication they’re taking, and also trust that their pharmacist is knowledgeable enough to understand their specific needs. Here are six tips to address the most common issues encountered when implementing a new medication education component to your pharmacy’s responsibilities.

  1. Health Literacy: A patient’s health literacy may dramatically impact the success of their recovery. For low-literacy patients, it’s vital that you slow down and speak clearly and slowly. Use simpler vocabulary and avoid medical jargon. Explain their specific regimen in steps and encourage the person to ask questions. Provide simplified written instructions and visual aids to improve patient adherence.
  2. Special Circumstances: Pharmacists should also be prepared to communicate separately with caregivers in cases where the patient is a child or an older person with dementia. In such instances, your pharmacist may have to explain medications and compliance twice to vastly different audiences with significant differences in comprehension.
  3. Language Gap: If there is a language barrier, have resources available to translate. Whether you hire a multilingual staff or maintain a relationship with a translation service to provide interpreters over the phone, you must be prepared ahead of time to provide non-English speakers with the best care possible.
  4. Information Overload: Patients with a newly diagnosed condition may require multiple counseling sessions, so have your pharmacists plan accordingly. For example, a patient new to a diagnosis of diabetes may require counseling on smoking cessation, proper care of foot ulcers, the best times to take insulin, proper storage of their insulin, and side effects of new blood pressure medications. Rather than overwhelm the patient with too much information at once, arrange to deliver the required learning in digestible doses.
  5. Staffing patterns: Whether you operate using a centralized or decentralized staffing model, adding patient education responsibilities will impact pharmacy staffing. You’ll need to determine the number of patients a pharmacist can see each day, and which times of day. Do you have a large enough staff to dedicate one individual to patient education each day? Or, will multiple staff members mix patient education in with their regular pharmacy duties?
  6. Integrating pharmacy into patient care: Your hospital will need to establish procedures for alerting the pharmacy when a patient consult is needed, for both bedside education and pre-discharge education. One hospital may find that after rounds is most efficient while another may determine that a pharmacist should be part of rounds. Yet another may only call in pharmacy for medication education for high-risk patients and those with a high risk of re-admittance. Regardless, consultations should be planned events for maximum positive impact. Adding a 48-hour phone call to follow up with patients would be ideal.

Patient counseling in any setting is essential for patients to achieve their best possible therapeutic outcome. Take the time to become a pharmacy hero for both your patients and your organization.

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