How Pharmacists Were Utilized During the Pandemic to Optimize Patient Care
The International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) issued a guideline on March 19, 2020, outlining the necessary information for pharmacists and the pharmacy workforce regarding the coronavirus. The guideline emphasized the role and responsibility of both community and hospital pharmacists in managing the outbreak.
During pandemics, pharmacists play a crucial role in coordinated efforts. They need to be flexible and adaptable in adapting to changes in pharmacy practice. As highlighted by FIP, community pharmacies (in both affected and unaffected areas) often serve as the initial point of contact for individuals seeking health-related information or reliable advice.
The pandemic legally expanded roles for pharmacists
Several legal extensions empowered pharmacists to actively contribute to the fight against the virus. These extensions include authorization to prepare hand and surface disinfectants, the ability to renew prescriptions for chronic treatments, filling prescriptions pro auctore and pro familia, conducting COVID-19, influenza, and Group A Streptococcus screening tests, and administering vaccines.
Additionally, many countries facilitated internet-based services such as virtual medical consultations, e-prescriptions, and home drug delivery to promote social distancing among patients. To address drug shortages, strategies such as alternative sourcing, strength/generic/therapeutic substitutions and compounding formulations at the pharmacy were implemented.
Overall, these novel legal extensions enabled pharmacists to maximize their potential and support overwhelmed healthcare systems. By expanding the roles and responsibilities of pharmacists, countries harnessed their expertise and resources to meet the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic effectively.
Pharmacists were under-recognized and over-worked during the pandemic
Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, pharmacists have risen to the occasion and have been actively contributing to patient care and public health. However, while healthcare providers within academic health centers value and champion pharmacists as integral team members, this recognition was not effectively translated to the public, the news media, or politicians.
Despite this, pharmacists continued to provide essential healthcare services and contributed significantly to patient care and public well-being during the pandemic.
How they have contributed to global health
Pharmacists, as medication experts, play a vital role in various healthcare settings, including hospitals, clinics, community pharmacies, long-term care facilities, physician offices, and national and public health departments.
During the pandemic, pharmacists made global contributions in various areas of practice:
Pharmacists have been at the forefront of ensuring the safe and effective use of medications for patients pre- and post-covid. They have been involved in medication selection, dosing, and monitoring, as well as providing patient counseling and education on proper medication use.
Pharmacists have played a crucial role in vaccination campaigns worldwide, including for COVID-19. They have been involved in vaccine administration, ensuring proper storage and handling of vaccines, and educating patients about vaccine safety and efficacy.
Pharmacists have provided direct patient care services, such as conducting medication therapy management, monitoring patient outcomes, and addressing drug-related issues. They have also collaborated with other healthcare professionals to optimize patient care and outcomes.
Medication Supply Chain Management
Pharmacists have been responsible for managing the medication supply chain, ensuring the availability and appropriate use of medications during the pandemic. They have worked to prevent medication shortages, implement inventory management strategies, and support drug distribution efforts.
Public Health Education
Pharmacists have been actively involved in public health education and awareness campaigns related to COVID-19. They have provided accurate and up-to-date information on preventive measures, medication safety, and the importance of vaccination.
Telepharmacy and Telehealth
Pharmacists have adapted to the use of telepharmacy and telehealth technologies to provide remote patient care services. They have conducted virtual consultations, medication reviews, and counseling sessions to ensure continuity of care while minimizing in-person interactions.
Pharmacists have promoted and implemented antibiotic stewardship programs to combat the secondary bacterial infections associated with COVID-19. They have worked to ensure appropriate antibiotic use, prevent the emergence of antimicrobial resistance, and optimize patient outcomes.
These contributions by pharmacists from various countries demonstrate their indispensable role in the healthcare system through pandemic conditions and beyond. Florida Pharmacy Foundation recognizes their efforts and continues to advocate for the use of pharmacists in future global event preparedness and response plans.
Pharmacists were on the frontlines of the infodemic
Alongside the pandemic, there was a global spread of unreliable information. An infodemic — the spread of too much misinformation and disinformation during a disease outbreak or global health crisis — often capitalizes on negative emotions and is sometimes driven by political factors. Pharmacists play a vital role in combating misinformation by recognizing and addressing these aspects.
Here’s how pharmacists can continue to contribute as they did during the pandemic:
- Acknowledge and address emotions — Pharmacists should be attentive to the emotional state of patients, especially during something like the pandemic. They can provide a supportive and empathetic environment where patients feel heard and validated. By acknowledging and addressing these emotions, pharmacists can build trust and create a space for open dialogue.
- Validate concerns and provide accurate information — When patients bring up sources of misinformation, pharmacists can listen actively and validate their concerns. It is important to understand the underlying emotions and fears that may be driving the misinformation. Pharmacists can then provide accurate and evidence-based information to address these concerns, offering a balanced perspective and helping patients make informed decisions.
- Recognize the political nature of misinformation — Misinformation can be influenced by political factors, and partisan biases can shape how scientific information is communicated and perceived. Pharmacists, as healthcare professionals, have a responsibility to combat misinformation by actively engaging in clear and repetitive communication. They should provide accurate information, reinforce the importance of evidence-based practices, and actively denounce misinformation when they encounter it.
- Promote public health —Pharmacists should prioritize public health and the well-being of their patients. This involves speaking up against misinformation and actively countering it with accurate information. By taking a proactive stance and actively combating misinformation, pharmacists contribute to the overall health and safety of the community.
- Collaborate with healthcare professionals — Pharmacists should work collaboratively with other healthcare professionals, such as doctors, nurses, and public health officials, to combat misinformation. By sharing accurate information and coordinating efforts, healthcare professionals can create a united front against misinformation and ensure that accurate information reaches the public.
In summary, pharmacists have a responsibility to actively combat misinformation by addressing the emotional aspects, recognizing the political nature of misinformation, and promoting accurate information for the sake of public health. By taking a proactive stance, pharmacists contribute to the overall fight against misinformation during an infodemic.
Pharmacists are medication experts and on the front lines of patient contact and care in hospitals, clinics, community pharmacies, long-term care facilities, physician offices, and national and public health departments. They are among the most accessible healthcare professionals, with the majority of the population having a community pharmacy within a short distance from their homes. Supporting pharmacists is supporting public health.
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The Florida Pharmacy Foundation recognizes the role of pharmacists in public health. Our mission focuses on supporting the next generation of pharmacists. Please join us and help move the Foundation mission forward with your contribution, which directly supports future pharmacists, pharmacist leaders, and pharmacy education.
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