To describe communication between pharmacy staff and patients at the counter in outpatient pharmacies. Both content and communication style were investigated.
Pharmaceutical encounters in three outpatient pharmacies in the Netherlands were video-recorded. Videos were analyzed based on an observation protocol for the following information: content of encounter, initiator of a theme and pharmacy staff's communication style.
In total, 119 encounters were recorded which concerned 42 first prescriptions, 16 first refill prescriptions and 61 follow-up refill prescriptions. During all encounters, discussion was mostly initiated by pharmacy staff (85%). In first prescription encounters topics most frequently discussed included instructions for use (83%) and dosage instructions (95%). In first refill encounters, patient experiences such as adverse effects (44%) and beneficial effects (38%) were regularly discussed in contrast to follow-up refills (7% and 5%). Patients’ opinion on medication was hardly discussed.
Pharmacy staff in outpatient pharmacies generally provide practical information, less frequently they discuss patients’ experiences and seldom discuss patients’ perceptions and preferences about prescribed medication.
This study shows there is room for improvement, as communication is still not according to professional guidelines. To implement professional guidelines successfully, it is necessary to identify underlying reasons for not following the guidelines.