A better pharmacy experience leads to increased medicine adherence, study shows

Luke Vrankovich MPS

There is a link between the perceived quality of care provided by community pharmacists and patients’ adherence to prescribed medicine, new Australian research has shown.

The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Sydney Pharmacy School and published in Patient Education and Counselling recently, found both perceived service quality and medicine adherence were rated lower among patients recruited from pharmacies with a focus on price, when compared to those with a focus on service.

Key points:

  • Pharmacists speaking with patients and appearing technically competent improves medicine adherence
  • Patients value a comfortable pharmacy environment
  • Building supportive relationships is key.

‘When community pharmacies are deliberately designed and managed to provide person-centred care, their clients report improved adherence to their medication,’ said Dr Carl Schneider, a senior lecturer in Pharmacy Practice at the University of Sydney.

The research team, including Dr Schneider, Dr Stephen Carter FPS, Dr Sarira El-Den and PhD Candidate Ricki Ng, used a newly validated patient experience survey to measure Perceived Service Quality (pSQ).

Patients taking regular prescribed medicines who had previously attended the pharmacy completed electronic surveys in-store, with measures of pSQ and self-reported adherence.

Eight Australian pharmacies were recruited; five that self-identified as having a price promotion business strategy and three with a service-focused business strategy.

Technical and people skills count

Study co-lead Dr Carter, also a lecturer in Pharmacy Practice at the University of Sydney, said patients were asked whether they agreed with statements such as ‘I have a good relationship with the staff’, ‘I like the feel of the pharmacy’ and ‘the staff are available to provide advice about my prescriptions’.

Notably, while non-discount pharmacies generally scored higher, the study did find variations in each category.

Dr Stephen Carter FPS

‘Some pharmacies who discounted did ok, whereas some who focused on high service didn’t do as well as others,’ Dr Carter told Australian Pharmacist.

The crucial factors were perceived technical and people skills, said Dr Carter, who himself owned a pharmacy in Milton, New South Wales, for nearly 30 years.

‘Pharmacists speaking with customers about prescription and non-prescription medicines and appearing technically competent seemed to improve medication adherence,’ he said. ‘This is what we expected.

‘People also valued having a relationship with the pharmacy and its staff, and being in a comfortable environment that was easy to navigate and where conversations could be had in private.’

Other positives for patients included feeling noticed by staff and being assisted with their ‘overall health needs’.

Focus drives success

While more research is currently underway into the effect of personalised service on health outcomes, Dr Carter said key findings from the current research could be applied now.

‘The main driver of success is the focus of the pharmacy owner,’ he said.

‘They need to be working at great service, which includes technically proficient staff who build supportive relationships with clients.’

Community pharmacists are highly accessible healthcare professionals whose regular contact with patients provides ongoing opportunities to improve medicine safety and adherence, he said.

‘Since better service is associated with better outcomes, policy makers should consider whether incentive/disincentive mechanisms are built into remuneration systems for the supply of medicines,’ he said.

‘This could motivate pharmacy managers to focus on service quality, and ultimately patient care.’

Dr Carter said administering the research team’s pSQ survey would also be a great way to track what your patients are experiencing.