Health Now

What Does A Pharmacist Do?

Anytime you’ve received a prescription from your doctor, dentist or other health professional, it’s a pharmacist that has been responsible for dispensing the correct medication after you’ve handed in the script at the counter. But did you know that a pharmacist’s services extend far beyond this one act – and you’re already likely benefiting from their expertise in other ways, or that you could be? As highly trained medical professionals that study for four years plus continue to develop their skills and medical knowledge every year, there’s a lot more than meets the eye when it comes to the role your pharmacist plays. More than that, outside of the cost of your medications or products, in many cases the services your pharmacist provides are free


Here are seven of the many things your pharmacist can help you with so that you can make the most of their range of complimentary services.


  1. Pharmacists Help You Know How And When To Take Your Medications

While you and your doctor may have discussed how the medication you’re being prescribed will work to help with  the problem you’re facing, your pharmacist will tell you how to take it (e.g. with or without food), how often to take it (e.g. three times a day, four hours apart) and how long to take it for (e.g. ten days), so you can gain the best results for your health and wellbeing.


While it may seem like a simple task, the way you take your medication can have a significant effect on the outcome. For example, iron supplements are recommended to be taken separately from a milk drink, calcium supplements or antacids, as calcium may inhibit iron absorption, meaning you don’t get the full benefits from your iron supplement.


  1. Pharmacists Discuss Any Concerns You Have About Your Medications

When being handed your prescription, you may be left with questions or want extra assurance that the medication is suitable for you given medical conditions you have, other medications you’re taking, or your lifestyle factors. Your pharmacist has excellent knowledge about both the way the medication works and how it relates to a range of medical conditions and circumstances. They can answer your questions, provide sound advice to help you feel confident in taking your medication, and troubleshoot any issues you may have. Pharmacists can also fill you in on what to expect from taking your medication, what is normal, and what the red flags are that mean you should return to see your doctor or seek help. 


  1. Pharmacists Can Check That There Hasn’t Been A Medication Mix-Up

As you’re getting your prescription, you can check with your pharmacist that there hasn’t been a medication mix-up and the one you’ve been given is what your doctor described during your consultation. New Zealand data shows that prescribing errors affect around 7% of medication orders in hospitals and around 5% of prescriptions in private practice, with the most common error being that an inappropriate medication is prescribed due to an allergy or adverse reaction, the medicine being contraindicated or another reason. The second most common error is the prescription of the wrong dose. If you’re concerned, or would like clarification on the medication you’re taking, always speak to your pharmacist.


  1. Pharmacists Help Make Your Medicine Affordable

New Zealand is fortunate to have a prescription subsidy scheme where a range of common medicines are either fully or partially subsidised by the government. Other medicines, often those that are very specific, less common or carry a certain brand name with a higher manufacturer’s price may be unsubsidised.


Pharmacists can help make prescription medicines more affordable by, where possible, offering you the option to switch from a specific brand name medication that is unsubsidised or carries a high manufacturers price, to one of a generic brand name that is fully subsidised. The medication and its actions are the same – just created by different companies. 


  1. Pharmacists Help You Find The Best Over-The-Counter Products

Sometimes you want a pharmacy product to help promote your health, such as a vitamin supplement or an antibacterial cream for a wound, but you don’t feel you need to see a doctor about the problem. In this case your pharmacist can offer you valuable information and help you select the best product for you in light of your medical conditions and circumstances. For example, you may have a cold and are looking for something to ease your symptoms, but you’re also breastfeeding and want something that will be safe for your baby with regards to it passing through the breastmilk.


  1. Pharmacists Vaccinate, With Training

New Zealand pharmacists can choose to complete an approved vaccinator training course, and given that they comply with the immunisation standards set out by the Ministry of Health, can administer vaccines in the pharmacy. These include vaccines for flu, Tdap, shingles, meningococcal, MMR (depending on the DHB), HPV, and as of 2021, the COVID-19 vaccines. So if you need a vaccine and don’t want to wait for a doctor’s appointment, or are deterred by GP fees, call your pharmacy to check your pharmacists availability, stock of the vaccine, and vaccine cost.


  1. Pharmacists Are Helping New Zealanders Collect Their Prescriptions & Pharmacy Products – Without The Upfront Cost

While many of the services offered by your pharmacist don’t carry an additional cost outside of the medication, vaccination or product fees, these costs can still quickly add up. New Zealand’s National Health Survey found that approximately 5% of adults fail to collect their prescriptions due to cost, jumping to up to 14% for Maori and Pacifica adults. Women are collecting less prescriptions than men, as are those aged under 65 years compared to over 65, and as for adults living in the most socioeconomically deprived areas, they are six times more likely to be unable to collect a prescription due to cost than those in the least deprived areas.

To help address this problem, pharmacists are now giving health consumers a way to better manage their pharmacy costs by offering a buy now, pay later (BNPL) platform designed specifically for healthcare. It’s called HealthNow and it’s available as a smartphone app at absolutely no cost to users, with no interest or hidden fees.

Choosing to use the HealthNow app when it’s time to pay means that the full cost of your bill is split into multiple payments over a maximum of six weeks, with a fraction of the cost needing to be paid on the day of purchase. Your medications and products are yours to take home instantly. HealthNow is trusted by pharmacists as it meets a higher level of regulatory compliance than any regular non-health BNPL service, ensuring that it operates with social responsibility. 

Register for HealthNow 0n our app. You can also check out HealthNow’s full benefits and features, including a health wallet to store funds set aside for health services that can be contributed to by others including your employer.

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