Background Over the past decades, the pharmacist’s role has changed from being ‘compounders and dispensers' to one of ‘medication therapy manager’ providing pharmaceutical care (PC). The transformation of pharmacy practice and its benefits, however, seem to be poorly understood by patients and caregivers (consumers) even in advanced health systems.
Objective This study aims to assess the comprehension of consumers in Singapore towards PC and expectations on the scope of pharmacy services today.
Methods This qualitative study was conducted among 51 consumers and pharmacy staff (pharmacy providers) in a tertiary acute care hospital in Singapore through 45 semi-structured interviews. Participants were sampled from inpatient and outpatient settings. Data were transcribed, coded and analysed by thematic analysis.
Results Thirteen pharmacy technicians, 14 pharmacists and 14 out of 24 patients and caregivers, agreed to be interviewed. Reasons such as minimal English and unsure of pharmacy services were cited for declining interviews. From the interviews, the majority of the consumers did not understand the differences in roles between pharmacists and doctors beyond the basics of doctors diagnosing and pharmacists dispensing. Eighteen (75%) consumers remain unaware that pharmacists are trained to provide additional services such as medication enquiry services and optimisation of drug therapy. In addition, consumer expectations have expanded beyond transactional encounters, with 15 (63%) consumers expecting personalised services. Five (19%) pharmacy providers also expect the use of automation to boost efficiency and improve patients’ convenience. Seven (15%) of the participants hope to see better prediction with analytics and, therefore, pre-emptive management of medication errors.
Conclusions There is an incomplete understanding regarding PC and the roles of pharmacy providers among healthcare consumers today. Beyond basic service provisions, expectations of pharmacy practice have become more experience-oriented. Policy changes that expand pharmacists’ roles must be matched with corresponding publicity and education efforts to encourage service utilisation.
- pharmaceutical care
- pharmacy practice
- qualitative research
- managed care
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