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05/12/2014

Student Pharmacists Can Help Improve Medication Adherence

All pharmacy personals can take initiative in improving patient’s adherence. Pharmacists and pharmacy students have very unique skills that will help patients better understand their medications and use it appropriately. Student pharmacists can develop skills such as patient communication, disease management and gather resources which will all help patients with adherence to medications.

Barriers and Solutions: Student pharmacists were surveyed to determine some of the barriers to pharmacy involvement in patient’s adherence. Through the survey, student pharmacists said that they felt that pharmacists didn’t have enough time to counsel patients, or conduct follow-up phone calls. Another issue that student pharmacists noticed was that there was no supplementary assistance for both patients and students to improve adherence. Students also claimed that they were not sufficiently trained to manage adherence issues while they were in pharmacy school.

These are some of the issues that student pharmacists can try to resolve while on experiential practice rotations. To address the time factor, it is important to understand the complexity of a pharmacy work flow during a regular day. There might not be enough systems, funding and support in place to allow pharmacists to step out and counsel a patient for 5-10 minutes. However, student pharmacists or interns may have the opportunity to take the initiative and help patients with medications.  Although students are not actively taught the importance of medication adherence, they have the basic knowledge regarding the importance of pharmacy practice. Through their pharmacy school they can practice different techniques of counseling, and under the supervision of their pharmacist can counsel a patient at their local community pharmacy.

Health literacy is still a major barrier in preventing patients from taking their medications on a regular basis. It may cause the patient to question the purpose, adverse effect and effectiveness of the medication if they do not know all the details. As per the interventions of 3rd year pharmacy students conducting visits to multiple independent-living apartments and educating the elderly using multiple techniques there was a lot of benefits. Some of the benefits included patients being satisfied with the program, increased assurance when asking a question to their pharmacist, and more appreciation for the importance of adherence.

Interventions such as student pharmacist education programs and personal visits really allow patients to gain a better understanding of a pharmacist’s role. It will allow them to reach out to their pharmacists more often and take into consideration the value of correctly managing their disease state with medications. Therefore, student pharmacists should be able to step out of their comfort zone and assist pharmacists in reaching out to more patients. Student pharmacists have many skills that they can offer to the community and really emphasize the importance of adherence. 

Sheenu Joseph, PharmD '15

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