Making Simple Changes to Facilitate OTC Consultation

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Medicines sold over-the-counter (OTC) contribute greatly to patients’ ability to manage their disease, including resultant symptoms/effects and the side effects that might be caused by the prescription medications being taken. Pharmacists and support staff can play an enormous role in the safe and effective use of these medications.

Seubert et al suggest that community pharmacy personnel can help mitigate risks of self-care by consumers who seek OTC meds and that exchange of information facilitates the OTC consultation. However, pharmacy personnel often report difficulties in engaging consumers in such a dialogue. Their study was aimed to describe the development of a behavior change intervention to enhance information exchange between pharmacy personnel and consumers during OTC consultations. They found that consumers often do not think of having such a dialogue due to lack of trust in the person (pharmacy personnel) asking the questions, pharmacists not always being identifiable, the belief that they can manage without help, and being unaware that being asked questions would be to their benefit. The researchers applied a framework called the Behavior Change Wheel (BCW), which identifies sources of behavior in terms of the complex interactions between capability, opportunity and motivation. They applied the BCW to link factors that influence consumer engagement with information exchange during OTC consultations with intervention functions to change behavior. They found education, persuasion, environmental restructuring, and modelling to be potential intervention functions. Environmental restructuring took the form of placing situational cues (posters) in the pharmacy modeling information exchange behaviors, highlighting the benefit of this behavior (persuasion), and the reasons why it was important (education).

The resultant interventions were quite simple. It involved pharmacy personnel wearing badges identifying their position, altering the information exchange format, and putting up signage encouraging and explaining the benefits of OTC consultation. Pharmacy managers can draw upon theory like the BCW to make easy and inexpensive modifications just to alert patients of new possibilities. For example, they can encourage patients to inquire about a medication they’ve seen advertised on television. These “little” things can add up to changing the mindset of patients and engendering customer loyalty.

Additional information about Operations Management and Marketing Fundamentals can be found in Pharmacy Management: Essentials for All Practice Settings, 5e. If you or your institution subscribes to AccessPharmacy, use or create your MyAccess Profile to sign-in to Pharmacy Management: Essentials for All Practice Settings, 5e. If your institution does not provide access, ask your medical librarian about subscribing.

1Seubert LJ, Whitelaw K, Hattingh L, et al. Development of a theory-based intervention to enhance information exchange during over-the-counter consultations in community pharmacy. Pharmacy. 2018;6:117. doi:10.3390/pharmacy6040117

Shane Desselle

Professor of Social and Behavioral Pharmacy, Touro University California


Go to the profile of Shane Desselle
8 months ago

How well do you think patients are advised on taking their otc meds?

Go to the profile of TK
8 months ago

Our patients are not well educated about OTC, and most of the time it is by pure chance as pharmacists we catch a drug -drug interaction or drug food interaction. Great topic Dr. D.

Go to the profile of Shane Desselle
8 months ago

Thank you. We try to impress upon students that simple changes in workflow and even positioning of personnel can change the entire perception of the pharmacy in terms of its openness for patient communication.

Go to the profile of Liza Seubert
8 months ago

Hi Shane,

Thank you for highlighting the work we have done on the challenging topic of engaging consumers in an exchange during over the counter consultations. It was an interesting task to dissect the interaction process to identify the core components that influenced behaviours using the BCW. It was even more interesting to identify that a simple, inexpensive and easy method such as staff wearing badges with large font identifying their role, could have a positive impact on the quality of the interactions.



Go to the profile of Shane Desselle
8 months ago

Terrific! The purpose of these tips are to let students and practitioners know that there are indeed great nuggets in peer-reviewed literature that can and should inform practice. I have my students reading your paper, as well!