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Pharmacy U presenter Pavithra Ravi: The borders are now open. Are your patients ready?

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Pavithra Ravi will be presenting at Pharmacy U Vancouver on November 27.

Finally, the borders have reopened to travel after months of dreaming of reconnecting with friends and family, and, for the snow birds, heading south to warmer climes. Many Canadians are sure to be travelling soon.

What does the role of the pharmacist look like during the return of travel?

Since the introduction of the requirements for COVID-19 testing worldwide, travel has been a confusing area for most people. A lot of this confusion has been ending up at the pharmacy and it may not stop any time soon. How prepared are you?

Setting up expectations

Travel for everyone comes with a lot of questions nowadays. Can I travel there? Can I come back? Do I need a test? What kind of test? Do I need to quarantine?  When will I get my results? When and where do I take my test? Do I need other documentation?

There are a lot of questions floating around and it’s no surprise. Information is not always readily available and some of the information that is accessible isn’t always very clear. It is important to set expectations for your patients as well as your staff. Staff may feel they need to provide answers to patients calling in, but this is not the most efficient use of their time. Help staff feel reassured that we are healthcare providers and are there for their patients' healthcare needs.

Unfortunately, we do not always have any more visibility to extra travel regulations than patients do. Have some key speaking points set up for staff so they are comfortable responding this way. It is important to note that setting expectations is not easy. Not all staff members will be comfortable doing this. Consider providing all staff with the needed information but have one or two champions who staff can refer to for handling these calls. It is important that when dealing with patients they are not shunted away but informed that pharmacies have certain information and unfortunately do not have all information on specifics.

Knowing the right resources

Knowing how to help can be complicated when there are a lot of resources available. Understanding what the right resources are can be key in helping staff be prepared for the changing face of travel in your pharmacy. The following sites should help your patients better understand their travel situation:

It is a lot to ask of staff to know the ins and out of travel at a time when things could be changing rapidly. Providing them with quick references can help provide patients with signposts to where they can find answers. It you happen to know or be around a travel agency or other travel information posts, it may be beneficial to send patients to these experts, who keep up to date with the latest travel industry changes. Keeping a quick reference sheet or tearaway pad with information and contact details for staff to use can help answer patient questions quickly.

An opportunity to show your pharmacy’s value-add

How your pharmacy handles travel can really help you stand out as a value-add to patients. Travel is already a lot different from what we are accustomed to. People are more aware than ever of the impacts of infections and diseases. Use this opportunity to help bring awareness to the needed precautions to travel. This can range from first aid supplies, over-the-counter medications, packaging medications to be more travel friendly, and ensuring all needed vaccinations are taken. More than ever before, people are seeing the importance of vaccinations, so you can help highlight the risks and uses of vaccinations can ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.

Travel definitely looks different. Not everyone is on board. There are people who will embrace it now that the borders are open while others will continue to be more cautious. Regardless, we pharmacists will be the frontline healthcare workers many of these patients will see first and mention potential travel plans to.

As travel begins to reopen your pharmacy may want to:

  • Proactively hold information clinics on how to travel safely
  • Have travel ready kits available to patients
  • Ensure there are flags in their workflow to doublecheck that all proper vaccinations for travelling patients are considered

Ensure your pharmacy and staff are ready and equipped to best support and help your patients. You can help them get safely on their way.

Pavithra Ravi MPharm RPh is the founder and CEO of Pavithra Consulting Inc.

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