October just might be our favorite month of the year, and for a good reason: it’s American Pharmacist Month, a time to celebrate the critical role that pharmacists and pharmacy technicians play within healthcare.
Pharmacists are one of the most accessible healthcare professionals, seeing people 5 to 8 times more frequently per year than primary care providers. And as such, they are integral to your overall health and well-being.
You may not realize all the responsibilities that a pharmacist’s role encompasses. In addition to filling your prescriptions, they also educate on medication usage, advocate for changes that improve care, and problem solve clinical, ethical, managerial, economic, and legal compliance issues, becoming a trusted resource to the individuals they care for. Extensive training and education are required to enter the profession: a pharmacist must earn a doctorate in Pharmacy and complete state-specific licensing requirements before becoming licensed to practice pharmacy.
The pharmacist role at Alto
At many traditional retail pharmacies, each pharmacist is expected to tackle a broad assortment of tasks that often leave them feeling overwhelmed and stressed, like managing transactions for customers, answering questions about where non-pharmacy items are stocked, and contacting insurance companies on top of ensuring prescriptions are dispensed properly and safely. At Alto, however, pharmacists align with one of several practice areas — fulfillment, customer care, and onboarding — so that they are able to focus on specific aspects of pharmacist practice and deliver exceptional care to Alto’s customers.
Fulfillment pharmacists are responsible for inventory management, medication preparation, physical quality checks, and dispensing, all to make sure the right medication arrives at your door, on schedule. Our customer care pharmacists review prescriptions for accuracy and for potential complications with other medications on file; provide individualized consultations on dosing, side effects and other concerns; and partner with healthcare providers on clinical recommendations. And our onboarding pharmacists — a relatively new role at Alto — are a bridge to an individual's broader team, supporting healthcare providers and ensuring continuity of care between prescriber and pharmacy.
“At Alto, we are proud of our customer-focused services and forward-thinking means of providing those services,” shares Ashley Lee, Onboarding Pharmacist. “Being a pharmacist at Alto gives me the unique opportunity to not only practice patient care, but also to design it to be meaningful to as many individuals in need as possible. The innovation never stops here at Alto.”
How Alto pharmacists serve our communities
There’s no shortage of opportunities for a pharmacist to support an individual with their medication needs or to be a partner in their health journey alongside their doctor’s office, family and other support networks. Here are just a few of the many roles that Alto pharmacists fulfill.
Literally. Our pharmacists are educators who mentor other pharmacists-in-training. Sandra Aziz, Pharmacy Compliance Program and Training Manager, is responsible for training new Pharmacy Managers and Supervisors at our dispensing sites, ensuring they have the resources needed to be effective managers and to oversee their pharmacy location’s compliance program and daily operations.
Sandra also manages our internship programs for pharmacy students. Alto offers an immersive 10-week Pharmacy Operations Management summer internship program for eligible students at Howard University’s School of Pharmacy (HUCOP). The program provides an opportunity to gain a breadth of experience across clinical pharmacy care, operations, and business development. Students also have the opportunity to actively influence Alto’s software development and implement ideas that further preventative healthcare and pharmacist involvement in community health.
Sandra also launched our Introductory Pharmacy Practice Experiences (IPPE) and Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experiences (APPE) programs, which allow students from pharmacy schools across the country to select Alto as a practice site. While at Alto, they are exposed to highly skilled and entrepreneurial pharmacists, engineers, and operations experts with whom they can partner to challenge, reinvent, and improve pharmacy.
“It’s been really rewarding to see more pharmacy students expressing interest in our programs,” Sandra said. “We have a rare opportunity to give students an experiential learning experience that you won’t find at any other pharmacy. At Alto, our pharmacists work cross-functionally across operations, engineering, and design to build a better, more intuitive community pharmacy from the ground up. We focus on challenges faced by patients, providers, and payers, and find solutions that optimize experience, transparency, and health outcomes.”
Read our previous post, 'From Pharmacist to Professor: Sandra Aziz Spotlight'.
They’re your personal support system.
They’re also here to teach you! Our pharmacists are happy to chat on the phone for however long you need to offer individualized support. Many customers use these one-on-one consultations to learn how to give themselves injections as part of fertility treatment or diabetes management or to confirm special storage or dosing instructions, but our pharmacists are happy to share their expertise on any question related to your prescriptions or health needs.
For example, did you know that our pharmacists are experts on managing side effects? As a bridge between you and your doctor, our pharmacists review all of your current medications to identify any potential symptoms or medication interactions, and they’re available to talk through any questions or concerns.
Lawmakers in several states have recognized the accessibility of pharmacists and their potential to play an even larger role in healthcare, specifically in the HIV prevention space. California became the first state to allow pharmacists to prescribe HIV prevention medication like pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) in 2019, and Colorado became the second in November 2020.
“As healthcare providers in the community, there is a big opportunity for us as pharmacists to play a critical role in HIV prevention and help increase accessibility to medications like PrEP and PEP,” explains Susan Sun, Specialty Pharmacist. “It’s been wonderful to see growing recognition of a pharmacist’s impact even outside of the healthcare community, and the recent legislation that allows pharmacists to prescribe in some states is just a start. It’s a privilege for pharmacists to be a part of these exciting changes and make HIV prevention easier for others.”
Thank you, pharmacists!
In honor of American Pharmacist Month, we’d like to say a big and heartfelt thank you to our incredible team of 175+ pharmacists. Each of you plays a critical role in the wellbeing of our customers, the strength of our provider relationships and the quality of our service — we’re grateful for your hard work all year long.
Here are just a few of the faces responsible for providing exceptional pharmacist care at Alto!
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in October 2021 and has been updated for accuracy and completeness.