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Pharmacists are being encouraged to offer pharmaceutical care to improve patients' health, rather than simply dispense medications. This care ranges from monitoring patients' symptoms and counseling them about their medications to helping resolve drug-related problems and facilitating communication with physicians. Both patients and pharmacists view counseling as an important role for pharmacists and believe that pharmacists should work with patients' physicians, according to a study supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS09083).
For the study, researchers analyzed discussions of two focus groups of 13 patients with reactive airways disease and 11 pharmacists from chain drug stores. Although pharmacists viewed counseling as integral to their job, they reported several obstacles, including lack of time, inadequate privacy, and the lack of direct access to patients' physicians. Pharmacists provided the greatest amount of counseling for new prescriptions, drugs with complicated instructions, and medications for children. All patients wanted to receive drug information sheets to supplement pharmacists' face-to-face counseling, and most read these sheets when they got them. Both pharmacists and patients believed pharmacists should have access to patient-specific clinical data.
A number of patients mentioned that rapport with the pharmacist affected their choice of drugstore. Men were willing to wait longer than women for improved counseling. However, patients appeared unwilling to pay for increased pharmacist counseling. The researchers used the information gained from these focus groups to design a pharmaceutical care program for chain pharmacies, which are the largest provider of prescription medications in the United States.
See "Pharmaceutical care in chain pharmacies: Beliefs and attitudes of pharmacists and patients," by Mark R. Amsler, Pharm.D., Michael D. Murray, Pharm.D., William M. Tierney, M.D., and others, in the November 2001 Journal of the American Pharmaceutical Association 41(6), pp. 850-855.
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