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So pretty much every pharmacy I have been at refers to its “clients” as customers. Any signage or promotional materials lists them as customers. Rarely do pharmacy personnel seem to see those we serve as patients.

cus·tom·er (kŭs’tə-mər) n.
1. One that buys goods or services

customer. (n.d.). The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Retrieved December 08, 2009, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/customer

Patient (pā’shənt) n.

1. One who receives medical attention, care, or treatment.

patient. (n.d.). The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Retrieved December 08, 2009, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/patient

So are we providing medical attention or care to our clients? Or are we simply selling them goods and services. Are we medical professionals or are we vendors peddling goods?

Despite what some other pharmacy blogs might lead you to believe, patients are not stupid. If the environment tells them they are a customer and if the staff believes they are and treats them as a customer, they will begin to play the role of a customer. Along with that role comes set expectations for nothing beyond a transaction of currency for goods and the expectation of convenience and speed that goes along with that schema.

Our profession must change if it is to survive. Gone are the days when pharmacies can survive off of the profit margins on prescription drug reimbursements alone. However, before the profession can change, we need to change patient expectations. And before patient expectations will change for pharmacists, pharmacists’ own expectations of themselves must change. We must view patients as patients and combat the image that they are simply customers involved in a transaction. We must believe that we are providing medical care for a patient over time and then convey that image to our patients. I believe this is the first step in change, and it begins with us. Changing our profession individually may be a challenge, but if as a profession we decide to change this mindset I believe we can begin to see some substantial changes in patient expectations.

Let me know what you think …

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