Superhero status

October 29, 2013By Behind the Shelf Blog, Future of Retail

by Dave Wendland

You won’t find them in capes, leaping tall buildings, or catching bullets in mid-air, but these white-coated professionals are indeed healthcare superheroes. And I believe the role of the pharmacist in the United States is about to become more pronounced.pharmacists deserve “superhero status.”

Healthcare reform is dictating the need for front-line healthcare professionals to guide consumer health choices and decisions. In our country this role may have traditionally been filled by physicians. However, with demand far exceeding supply, the next logical option – and by far, most accessible – is the pharmacist. I can foresee a time very soon when customers seek healthcare advice first from a pharmacist before making an appointment with their doctor.

This is certainly the case in France, where the pharmacist is the trusted healthcare professional and go-to-resource. In cases of minor ailments, they are the first port of call. Of course in that country, pharmacies are the only licensed providers of pharmaceuticals, including the lowest dose aspirin.

The challenge of what I envision will be compensation for the consultative services offered by the pharmacist. My hope is that a limelight is placed on the profession and that the government, insurers, or employee groups recognize this critical function and develop realistic compensation for the value pharmacists will bring. This goes hand-in-hand with a prediction made several years ago that positions pharmacies as wellness destinations rather than sickness substations (perhaps I’ll write on this topic in the not-too-distant future).

In considering this blog topic I endeavored to see if anyone else in the world felt pharmacists deserved “superhero status.” Lo and behold, the Belgian Pharmacists’ Association certainly agreed. To that end, Ogilvy Healthcare Brussels launched the "Superhero? Pharmacist!" campaign as part of a strategy to emphasize the added value of pharmacists.

A television spot was designed in which children of pharmacists explained what the job of their parents actually encompasses. Through the eyes of children of pharmacists, the public learns that their parents “brew magic potions”, “sometimes even save lives”, amongst other amazing feats. At the end of the 35-second advertisement the children are asked whether their parents are superheroes. Their disarming answer is “Well no! Pharmacist!” The goal of the campaign is to bring the profession of pharmacist closer to the public, emphasizing their role as front-line caretakers and shedding light on their daily commitment to the safety of patient drug use.

Could a similar campaign pitching pharmacists as superheroes work in the US? Who would be the right organization – or company – to take this message forward?

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