Studies indicate that patients interact with their pharmacists more than all other health care providers. A recent study involving high risk patients (with chronic diseases, including diabetes) found that the patients visited their primary care physician an average of 4 times per year, had 9 outpatient visits per years with specialists, and presented to their community pharmacy 35 times per year (Moose & Branham).  With the most frequent face-to-face encounters, pharmacists have the greatest opportunity to give expert clinical support to patients with questions.  

After more than 35 years as a practicing pharmacist, I know this to be true from personal experience.  Even though my practice site is not located in my neighborhood, my patients are more like friends and neighbors. Pharmacists are accessible. We pick up the phone and are always there, no appointment necessary.  We know your medical history, your current medications, and what your insurance will, and will not, cover.  

Therefore, the pharmacist as a diabetes educator is an underused resource that I recommend patients take advantage of.

  • Having trouble with your meter?  Take it to the pharmacist (there may even be a free meter promotion going on). 
  • Question about whether your testing strips are faulty?  The pharmacist can provide or walk you through using control solution.
  • How about those special needles you like for your pens?  The pharmacist can order every kind of needle available.
  • Your insurance is changing?  Can you stay on the same insulin with the same co-pay?  The pharmacist can tell you.
  • How can you maximize your diabetes meds and supplies before falling in the donut hole?  The pharmacist can help with that.  
  • Which Medicare Part D plan will best meet my needs (not just with my diabetes meds, but all my meds)?  Pharmacists can provide information on all available plans based on your individual needs. 
  • You have several different health care providers and specialists, all prescribing medications.  Are they safe to be taken together?  The pharmacist will help with that.
  • It’s immunization time – your next doctor’s appointment is not for three months.  See your pharmacist, most are immunization certified and can provide common immunizations without an appointment.

Pharmacists can be the “first responders” in diabetes care when they take the time to form a bond with the patient. A good pharmacist knows when to tell the patient to seek another provider for additional information: a dietician for nutrition services, psychologist for mental health services, podiatrist for feet issues, urologist for sexual dysfunction, as well as simply telling the patient, “you need to call your doctor today”. 

Several of the national pharmacy chains as well as local, independent pharmacies, encourage and sometimes require their staff pharmacists to become certified in diabetes management. They may be trained to become a “Certified Diabetes Educator – CDE”, or American Society of Health Services (ASHP) Board Certified in Diabetes Management. Just by asking the question of your pharmacist, “are you trained in diabetes management?”, you may open up a valuable on-site and immediate resource for your diabetes questions.

Even though the health care system is constantly changing, the bond between people will always be there. Each day, something goes right to make a difference in a person’s life. Being a pharmacist gives me a front row seat to cheer and celebrate that event.

By: Elise Swenson, RPh, MS, MAOM, CDE
Cecelia Health CDE