Interactive Pharmacist Counseling Could Optimize Patient Outcomes

Patients may be more likely to retain information about their prescribed medications when the pharmacist-patient relationship becomes a 2-way conversation.

Patients may be more likely to retain information about their prescribed medications when the pharmacist-patient relationship becomes a 2-way conversation.

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association suggests that more interactive conversations between the pharmacist and patient can more than double the likelihood that the patient will understand how to take their medications properly.

This approach employed by Oregon State University researchers, who used the school’s Student Health Center Pharmacy as their setting, involves asking patients 3 basic, open-ended questions about the name and purpose of their prescriptions, how to use and store them, and the possible side effects associated with them.

The results showed that 71% of patients participating in this interactive pharmacist counseling approach were able to answer all 3 questions correctly when they returned for a refill, compared with just 33% of patients who received traditional lecture format counseling.

“The benefit of the interactive counseling technique is the fact that the patient can let the pharmacist know upfront what they know about their medications. The pharmacist can then fill in the knowledge gaps,” study co-author Bill Boyce told Pharmacy Times.

This patient knowledge gap may be wider than what pharmacists suspect. For example, a patient could have difficulty hearing, language barriers, or any other cognitive circumstance.

Boyce acknowledged that the issues of time management and heavy workloads in the community pharmacy setting are often the source of hesitancy among pharmacists to have longer conversations with patients.

“The pressure of time often leaves pharmacists rushing through just reading the label to the patient…but the time span difference between the interactive technique and the conventional technique is actually not that great,” he explained.

In fact, Boyce and his colleagues found that it takes just one more minute for pharmacists to interactively counsel patients about their medications.

The increased health literacy resulting from these more substantive conversations is strongly associated with greater medication adherence, which is widely considered one of the most crucial components of the value-based care model and optimized patient outcomes.

“This is the first real analysis to prove that [the interactive approach] works, and that the approach could be extremely important for health care in America,” Boyce concluded.