How Does Social Media Impact Pharmacy Practice?

MARCH 23, 2017
Jeannette Y. Wick, RPh, MBA, FASCP

Everybody seems to use social media, and pharmacists are no exception. However, it's been unclear how pharmacists employ social media in their daily professional practice.

An international research team looked at social media's role in pharmacy practice in 9 countries with a specific eye toward patient care and pharmacist interaction with patients and laypeople in online settings. They gathered information using face-to-face, telephone, or Skype interviews with practicing pharmacists.

Most participants worked in pharmacies that had established Facebook pages. Regardless, many of the participants did not provide individualized services to patients via social media.

Participants indicated that they would be hesitant to ‘‘friend’’ patients on Facebook. They perceived this action as blurring professional-personal relationship boundaries.

Participants also admitted to providing advice and general health information on social media infrequently to friends and followers. However, they were likely to correct misleading health information if they saw it on Facebook. 

The study also demonstrated that pharmacists use YouTube to augment counseling. One participant indicated that he uses YouTube most often to help patients learn how to use inhalers correctly. A quick search of YouTube locates numerous videos from reliable sources covering all types of inhalers.

Although pharmacists recognized social media's potential, their use of social media to provide patient care and pharmacy services was minimal. The researchers noted that in addition to using social media to educate patients, pharmacists can use it to learn about consumers’ online activities, and reach a broader audience with health promotion messages.

As the primary population ages, patients will look for more online contact opportunities. The researchers concluded that further ongoing research is needed to better understand the evolving use of social media by pharmacists and its usefulness as a tool for health service delivery.

This study appears ahead-of-print in the International Journal of Clinical Pharmacy.


Benetoli A, Chen TF, Schaefer M, Chaar B, Aslani P. Do pharmacists use social media for patient care? Int J Clin Pharm. 2017 Mar 15. doi: 10.1007/s11096-017-0444-4. [Epub ahead of print]