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 a momentous 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 patients who seek OTC meds, and that this exchange of information facilitates the OTC consultation. However, pharmacy personnel often report difficulties in engaging patients 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 patients during OTC consultations. They found that patients 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 among other staff, the belief that they (patients) can manage without help, and them being unaware that being asked questions by pharmacy personnel 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 patient engagement with information exchange during OTC consultations with intervention functions to change behavior. They found that education, persuasion, environmental restructuring, and modeling are potential intervention functions. More specifically, environmental restructuring took the form of placing situational cues (posters/signage inviting patient participation) in the pharmacy; encouraging information exchange behaviors during existing consultations (modeling); 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 theories like the BCW to make easy and inexpensive modifications simply 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.
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 P. Desselle, RPh, PhD, FAPhA, Professor of Social/Behavioral Pharmacy at Touro University California