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Choosing your pharmacist online

We all need a team of professionals to achieve a healthy and balanced life. For example, you’ve likely picked a family physician, a dentist, and a financial planner. However, people rarely choose a pharmacist with the same care.

Rather, they choose the pharmacy, not the pharmacist. Choosing a pharmacy is based on a number of factors: cost, convenience, reward program, and habit. That said, I think patients with particular health care needs have realized the enormous benefit of choosing their own clinical pharmacist. To help you find a great clinical pharmacist, you need to appreciate the wide variety of pharmacists who work in a community pharmacy, a hospital, or a clinic.

Step 1: Create a list of your medical conditions and health prevention needs
First, you need to consider your personal health issues, with a particular focus on your medication needs. Start by creating a list of your medical conditions (diagnoses) and any preventative health interventions you may require (such as routine immunizations).

Step 2: Identify your personal health preferences and goals
Spend some time reflecting on your personal health goals. Your goal may be to reduce pain so you can enjoy your favourite hobby. Another goal could be to improving a lab test or a physical measurement. Once you have determined your personal health goals, list them by priority.

Step 3: Assess your health and medication insurance
Each individual will have their own medication coverage. In Canada, outpatient medications are not part of the publicly funded health care system; medications are sold in a private market with each pharmacy charging a different price for the same medication. Take the time to understand exactly what is covered, and how much is covered under your drug insurance plan. You may also have a health spending account which covers the services provided by pharmacists as we are authorized medical practitioners for tax purposes, under the Canada Revenue Agency.

Step 4: Determine activities your clinical pharmacist needs to perform
A clinical pharmacist is a key member of your health care team. In Alberta, many pharmacists can now administer injections, prescribe medications, and order lab tests. In other provinces, pharmacists have similar authority to help you with your medications.
Pharmacists will use their expertise to start, change, or stop medications in collaboration with your other health care providers. If you need frequent blood monitoring of a medication, your pharmacist may order the lab test and you could follow-up either with your pharmacist or your primary care professional.

Step 5: Search for potential pharmacists
Speak with trusted family members and friends for their personal pharmacist recommendations. You can also search for pharmacists online through your provincial college of pharmacists. Once you have a short-list of pharmacists, phone them to discuss your health preferences and goals. Ideally you’ll get to know a clinical pharmacist well enough to share personal health details, so the pharmacist can understand your specific health needs.

By following these five steps, you’ll add a top performing member to your health care team: a pharmacist.