Framing written information in a clear and concise way when communicating to prescribers is essential to the delivery of effective patient care. This responsibility falls under the “communication and education” domain observed during community practice assessments and is outlined in the NAPRA Standards of Practice for pharmacists.
Effective and efficient messages are an extension of the critical role played by pharmacists within the circle of care. In addition to conveying information relevant to patient care, they support continuity of treatment for the patient.
Instead of writing your communication by hand, consider typing it so that it is easy to read. Messages should be kept factual and brief, as prescribers may receive many messages each day.
IS THE COMMUNICATION REQUIRED?
Pause to consider the appropriateness of sending a message prior to preparing it. Consider the following questions:
- Can I adapt/renew this prescription on my own authority?
- Have I outlined the relevant details and provided all the information for the prescriber to make an informed decision?
- How will this message be perceived by the prescriber?
- Will the prescriber accept my input and inquiry or will he/she ask why the pharmacist isn't helping the patient?
A decision to adapt, initiate or renew a prescription can be made after conducting a therapeutic assessment if patient or agent consent is granted. A pharmacist must notify the prescriber within a reasonable time after initiating such an action. For more information, visit the Guideline: Initiating, Adapting and Renewing Prescriptions on the College website.
Pharmacists are periodically required to contact prescribers to manage drug interactions or suggest changes to therapy that could help ensure best possible patient outcomes. In such situations, describe the issue succinctly and accurately. Most prescribers deal with a high volume of patients and need to be apprised of the individual scenario when approached with drug-related inquiries. Don’t assume they will recall the patient, their health information and prescribed therapy.
Manage a drug-related problem by providing your therapeutic recommendations to the prescriber, including how to manage the situation. Present concrete solutions based on patient assessment and your professional judgment. For example, if a proposed antibiotic is not covered by insurance, suggest a therapeutic alternative based on the indication. Providing specific options in the initial communication reduces the chances of receiving responses that do not address the situation or are misunderstood, requiring additional time and effort to respond further.
Always endeavor to include a reference to the evidence that supports your recommendation(s). This can increase the prescriber’s comfort level with this and future recommendations.
Some pharmacists have developed templates for prescriber memos to facilitate consistent and effective communication. This can foster positive, inter-professional team approaches to patient care.
There are now a number of e-prescribing solutions available to Ontario pharmacies. Their functionality may improve collaboration between pharmacists and prescribers while also eliminating the inefficiencies and paper generated by fax usage.
Take the time to proofread messages prior to sending. Be sure your message is free of spelling and grammatical errors and accurately captures your intention. If possible, have a colleague review the content. Before sending it, remember to include your name as the fax will only identify the pharmacy.
Effective written communication to prescribers is essential to providing appropriate and comprehensive patient care. Reducing the risks associated with unclear messaging promotes patient safety and quality care.