Providing a trusting environment

Giovanni (‘Johnny’) Silvestri, Pharmacist Manager, Star Discount Chemist Rostrevor in Adelaide, discusses his career highlights, the evolution of the pharmacy industry, his pharmacy and team, and more.

What have been some of your career and store highlights so far? 

From a career point of view, it’s been rewarding returning to the pharmacy I started at as a pharmacy student, as the pharmacy manager. During my years at the pharmacy there have been many highlights, making it hard to pinpoint one. However, they all involve making a difference to a patient’s health. There’s no better feeling than having a patient return to the pharmacy thanking you as the product you recommended helped them, or for the advice you gave that made a difference.

What has been the impact of technology on pharmacy over recent years? 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, technological advancements came a lot faster than they would have otherwise. Prior to this, it was rare to receive a faxed prescription directly from a GP. Faxed prescriptions then evolved to electronic prescriptions in mid-2020. This has had a profound impact on patients and pharmacies. For patients, it has saved them the trouble of collecting prescriptions, mitigated the worry of losing them as they can be accessed online, and saving them making another GP appointment to acquire a new one. For pharmacies, it’s saved lots of phone calls to GPs following up a lost paper script in the mail, and presented the option of having the prescription pre-filled and paid, improving the pharmacy’s workflow.

How has the pharmacy industry and its approach to health services evolved over the years?

We’ve seen a big shift for pharmacists to do more in previous years. During the pandemic we were one of the most accessible healthcare professionals, staying open during lockdowns and delivering medications and medical supplies to patients in the community. We’ve also become the provider of choice for COVID-19 vaccines.

Tell us about the ethos of your pharmacy and how it differs from that of other pharmacies, in your view. 

Our pharmacy staff take a genuine interest and care in our patients. We pride ourselves on getting to know all our patients and being able to provide a service to match the patients’ needs. When a patient arrives at the pharmacy and is greeted by their name, it builds a level of trust and mutual respect. It establishes a personal connection and makes the patient feel welcome, while also building loyalty. 

Why is looking after your community so important to your pharmacy? What do think your customer base values the most about your pharmacy? 

Our patients love coming into the pharmacy to have someone to chat to. A lot of the patients coming through the door are either unwell themselves or have a family member or friend unwell. We pride ourselves on providing them with a memorable experience by getting to know them on a personal level and being by their side through their health journey. 

What are your values at your pharmacy and why is it so important to maintain core values in community pharmacy? 

Trust is our pharmacy’s main value. By developing trust with both our team members and patients, it provides an environment where everyone feels comfortable. Showing honesty and developing trust with our patients result in much better health outcomes, as they’re more inclined to reach out to us in regard to their health/medical-related queries. 

How has your team performed during the challenges of the past few years? 

The team has really stood up despite all the challenges presented to us of late. When a team member has been struck down with COVID, everyone, to their credit, has really stood up and helped where they can, from covering shifts to taking on different roles that put them out of their comfort zone.

Please elaborate on what your most popular service is. Why do you think this is so successful? What is your advice to other pharmacies seeking to strengthen this service in their store? 

One of our most popular services is our vaccination clinic. Not only do we allow for walk-ins, but we also have an interactive online booking platform with appointments open from early mornings to late in the evenings. This has provided great convenience to our patients, allowing them to book in at a time that fits their schedule and their families. My advice to other pharmacies to strengthen this service in their pharmacies is to get your whole team involved. Without my great team, we wouldn’t have been able to carry out almost 4000 COVID vaccinations. Your team can assist you in many areas here, from organising consent forms to helping comfort children getting vaccinations.

What do you predict the rest of 2023 has in store for pharmacy?

With the proposed 60-day dispensing changes, we’re concerned about the impact this will have on our pharmacy. We offer a variety of free services to our community, including deliveries five days a week, blood pressure and blood sugar level testing, ‘stat decs’/witnessing documents and in-depth medication and medical device counselling. We’re hopeful the Guild and the government can come to an agreement, so we can continue to offer these services free of charge to our community. 

What do you most look forward to in the second half of 2023 and beyond? 

With the announcement of pharmacist prescribing in several states across Australia, it’s an exciting prospect for us pharmacists in South Australia to join in. With GP surgeries often booked out, it’s tough to refuse appropriate treatment when patients present at the pharmacy. It’s going to be both a challenging and exciting area I’m looking forward to.

This feature was originally published in the August issue of Retail Pharmacy magazine.

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