Pharmacists Taking Their Time

SciShort_1_14_16The results are in from a new OSU study, and they show that some unconventional pharmacist techniques, including actually conversing with patients, can have substantial positive effects on health outcomes. While this does sort of sound like a candidate for the “No sh*t, Sherlock”  label, it’s actually important information because it helps quantify just how crucial the interaction with patients can be.

“This approach to prescription drug counseling has now been shown to be a dramatic improvement over conventional methods,” said Robert Boyce in a press release.  Boyce is the director of pharmacy services in the Student Health Center Pharmacy at OSU, and an author on the study. “This is the first real analysis to prove that it works, and that the approach could be extremely important for health care in America.”

The old approach, known as ominously as “lecture format,” basically just involved talking at patients and telling them what to do. Boyce was instrumental in developing an alternative over the last 25 years with a foundation in asking questions of the patient to ensure their understanding.

In Boyce’s approach, patients are asked questions about their understanding of the medication and their condition, in addition to receiving instruction. For the study, patients were asked three basic questions about usage of the prescription that go over what to do in case of an emergency, and focusing on improper mixing with other meds and other common mistakes. The study showed that patients who received the newer method of counseling were able to correctly answer all the questions at a rate of 71%, versus 33% for patients who just got the traditional method.

Boyce’s method is gaining acceptance across the pharmacy world, but it does result in increased time spent with patients, which for a busy pharmacist can be a big deal. The increase in time, estimated to be 45 additional seconds per patient, can really add up, but Boyce seems resolute in his response. “When you compare that to the risks of something not going right when a patient does not understand what the specific directions are, or what to expect from their medication, the additional effort seems minimal.”

Maybe next time you’re at the pharmacy, don’t just click the “decline pharmacist consultation” box on the card swipe machine and take the two minutes to chat with the pharmacist. It could just save your life.

By Sidney Reilly