Three Easily Avoidable Mistakes Pharmacists Make When Communicating with Patients

By Phyllis Houston, MSOL |

Efficiency is a key benefit for pharmacies implementing an automated outbound communications system, but it is important to also make certain this technology reinforces the unique and personalized aspects of a pharmacy's brand. Learn the mistakes to avoid when implementing an automated messaging system for patient reminders.  

Patient engagement resides at the heart of better care. It’s also the key to standing out from the competition. One of the most effective ways for independent pharmacies to accomplish both is by providing a personal touch every time a patient walks into their pharmacy. But what happens after that patient leaves?

Communicating directly with patients outside the pharmacy visit reinforces the personal touch, creates a stronger relationship and offers an emotional connection with the pharmacy's brand. Most importantly, it leads to better outcomes—for example, by way of improving medication adherence. Healthy patients are happy patients, and happy patients tend to return to pharmacies invested in their care.

However, many independent pharmacies make a few common mistakes when it comes to delivering outbound communications that feel consistent with the in-store experience. Here are pitfalls to watch out for, including ways to create a high-touch patient engagement strategy that saves time, boosts business and improves patient wellness.

Mistake 1: Following up manually with every patient

Nearly two-thirds of health providers believe the biggest challenge in delivering care is the time investment required.1 Direct follow up with countless patients can add administrative overhead and disrupt pharmacists' workflow. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day to talk to everyone.

Instead of following up manually with as many patients as time allows, automation can be used to engage a large patient base without placing an additional burden on the pharmacy team. An automated telephone messaging system can streamline outbound communications, enabling pharmacists to check in with more patients while creating staffing efficiencies and reducing costs. Patients feel informed and validated, while pharmacists can focus on face time with patients in the store.

An automated patient engagement solution lightens the load on the care team and gives patients the freedom to interact with the pharmacy on their own terms, offering the convenience and flexibility that today's consumers value.

Mistake 2: Sending outbound communications that lack a human touch

Automated messaging systems are an efficient vehicle for outbound communications, but letting them fly on autopilot right out of the gate is a risky practice. Cookie-cutter, "one size fits all" phone messages can adversely impact the patient-pharmacist relationship if they feel impersonal and robotic.

Instead of using a digitized robocaller that handles every step of the process, pharmacists can record messages in their own voice at the start and then let the automated messaging system take care of the rest. This helps build an emotional connection with patients. It feels more personal and reinforces a relationship with that pharmacy, creating brand loyalty that lasts long after each visit.

In addition, tailoring messages to a patient's specific needs can increase medication adherence and lead to better outcomes. A study published in the journal BMJ Open found that customizing automated phone calls to a patient’s dedicated phone line helped those with high blood pressure stick to their regimen.2

Here is an example of a tailored message discussed in the study:

This is your message for your blood pressure tablets. One easy way to remember your tablets is to take them with another daily activity, such as your morning cup of tea. If they are always done together, it will be harder to forget.

Please keep taking your tablets as prescribed even if you are well and feeling healthy. High blood pressure is one of those things that unless you actually feel it, you're not aware that it is a problem. Taking your medications as prescribed will support you to keep enjoying things or activities that are important to you.

Patients reported that the messages made them feel emotionally supported and that the reminders helped them understand the importance of taking their medication regularly, even when they were busy.

Mistake 3: Using phone calls to remind patients only about prescriptions

Traditionally, automated outbound communications have consisted of monthly or bi-monthly calls to remind patients about refills or picking up medications. This misses an opportunity to engage patients further.

Instead of limiting calls to medication-related messages only, pharmacists can use automated tools to make sure patients receive regular reminders about their recommended treatment plan, routine screenings and other services offered by their pharmacy.

In addition, automated outbound communications can help all patients stay motivated and consistent with their care. For example, pharmacies can use automated calls to send:

  • A reminder to get a flu shot
  • Notifications about screenings, tests and services such as blood pressure monitoring, glucose testing or smoking cessation
  • An invitation to stop in to talk about Medicare Part D open enrollment options
  • An introduction to the benefits of medication synchronization and medication therapy management
  • Warnings about the dangers of opioids and information about how to properly dispose of unused and expired medications
Better Outcomes for Pharmacists and Patients

Highly personalized outbound communication allows independent pharmacists to engage patients more deeply, build brand loyalty and foster better patient outcomes. Automating the process, adding the pharmacist's own voice, tailoring the communication to the patient and expanding messages to topics beyond medication refills will go a long way in deepening patient engagement with an independent pharmacy's brand—and with their own health.

Good Neighbor Pharmacy enables pharmacists to customize phone calls with their own voice and have them delivered to patients automatically. Visit WeAreGNP.com to learn more.


1. Volpp , Kevin G., and Namita S. Mohta. “How to Hardwire Patient Engagement Solutions into Care Delivery Processes.” NEJM Catalyst, 16 May 2018, catalyst.nejm.org/patient-engagement-solutions-care-delivery-processes/.
2. Kassavou, Aikaterini, et al. “Development and Piloting of a Highly Tailored Digital Intervention to Support Adherence to Antihypertensive Medications as an Adjunct to Primary Care Consultations.” BMJ Open, British Medical Journal Publishing Group, 1 Jan. 2019, bmjopen.bmj.com/content/9/1/e024121. 



About the Author

Phyllis Houston

Phyllis Houston, MSOL

Vice President, Program Development and Market Intelligence
AmerisourceBergen
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