Joe Moose believes that we should make the effort to tell our story. Creative Pharmacist has made “story” an integral part of the services they offer. Why is creating a narrative for pharmacists important? We know what we’re doing, right? We shouldn’t have to explain ourselves, correct?
In the spirit of college football season, let me say… “not so fast, my friend.” As we’ve said here before, pharmacists complain that we don’t have a seat at the table. Well, what does it take to get that seat? Or maybe more pointedly, what are we not doing that’s keeping us on the fringes.
Let’s check our report card:
1. Talk to the right people (fail)
2. Say the right thing (fail)
3. Practice the right care (pass)
The positive is that when it comes down to it, we do well at the most important aspect – care. But if we don’t want to see vending machines wearing our coats, we really need to work on numbers one and two. After all, if we aren’t willing to promote the value of our own profession to the right folks, we can’t expect others to recognize that value. So let’s take a closer look at those two areas of pharmacy communication where we come up a little short.
1: TALKING TO THE RIGHT PEOPLE
If pharmacists were preachers and we went to a preaching convention full of preachers we would preach down the house! Unfortunately we’re not preachers. And we do talk to the choir. We spend time talking to each other. Make no mistake, we don’t have an inferiority complex relative to other health care providers. We know how great we are. We tell each other often. We don’t have a problem getting together in real and virtual forums like #rxchat and #rethinkpharmacy and multiple LinkedIn groups to stress this point. And please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying here. This is uber important. I am a member and participant of these groups. I am in awe of those who organize and run these outreach efforts. They are doing a huge service to the profession. But at some point we as down-in-the-trenches pharmacists need to take some of the burden on ourselves. We can’t be satisfied to merely sit in the pharmacy pews. We have to evangelize. Invite others from disciplines that can help us pull our chair to the table: Public Health…practicing physicians… consultants… all of the people innovating in the health care universe. They’re out there, and they WILL listen to us. But we have to speak up.
I had the opportunity to meet one of these innovators a few weeks ago while attending TEDxAntioch. Dr. Thomas Prewitt of the HORNE Health Care Delivery Institute gave a great talk about the difference in health care versus rescue care. Afterwards, I talked to Dr. Prewitt about how some of the changes in health care policy effected the way that pharmacists can bill. Aspects such as healthy lifestyle consulting, education/wellness outreach, and being the most accessible health care professional in rural areas were topics of discussion. Dr. Prewitt was very engaged, and I was appreciative of the opportunity to tell such a healthcare innovator the goings on as they applied to pharmacy.
Then I thought to myself, why aren’t we doing this more? People in a position of influence such as Dr. Prewitt are more than willing to listen. We have to make the initiative to broach the topic. This leads me into the next point…
2: SAYING THE RIGHT THING
I struggle here. I am NOT the most clinical person. I don’t feel confident that I’m always up-to-date on the latest policy news or clinical service provider best practices. Realistically, who is? But I do love what I do and I believe in what I do. We have to realize that people listen more often than not to people who are passionate about what they do and can communicate why they do what they do. I think that if we’re able to be passionate advocates we’ll get more attention than if we’re indignant clinicians.
Seriously, just relate to people what you do on a daily basis, why you do it, and why it is important to everyone. That’s what people want and need to hear about pharmacists.
Full disclosure, I am about to borrow an idea here from the great business consultant, author, and branding innovator Simon Sinek here. Mr. Sinek started a mini-revolution with his legendary TED Talk “Start with Why.” As Mr. Sinek observes, most companies/occupations are good at explaining “what” they do and “how” they do it, but fall far short in communicating “why” we do what we do. And the “why” is what forms the strongest connection with others.
So I encourage all of us, when we talk to people about our profession, let’s really make an effort to address WHY we do what we do. I’ll share with you my “why.” For me, it comes down to passion. If we don’t believe in what we are doing why should anyone else? I really believe that our place in the health care system, in the public health ecosystem, is key to the effectiveness of the whole. As are the most accessible doctor-level health practitioner in most cases. In rural areas, we are often the only doctor-level practitioner. We do have the ability to do more interventions, to act in a medicinal fiduciary capacity for our patients. Because when it’s all said and done, yes… the folks who I consult and who’s prescriptions I fill are my patients, not my customers.
That’s my why. That’s what I’m committed to evangelizing. I would encourage all of us to join in. The choir hears us. It’s time the congregation did, too.