Improving patient-pharmacist encounters with over-the-counter medications: A mixed-methods pilot study


Aurora Sinai Hospital


Background and Objectives: Over-the-counter (OTC) medication use has increased safety risks for adults older than 65. Most older adults purchase OTC medications from community pharmacies, where the considerable distance or visual obstructions between the prescription area and OTC aisles undermine pharmacists’ ability to assist patients with OTC medication decisions. An innovative redesign of an abbreviated medication section specifically for older adults (called the Senior SectionTM) can facilitate pharmacy staff/patient interaction, potentially improving safe medication selection and use. This study evaluated the impact of the Senior Section on the frequency and content of OTC encounters between pharmacy staff and patients.

Research Design and Methods: An intervention mixed-methods design generated data from patient OTC encounters, and interviews with two pharmacists and two technicians, throughout the study. NVivo was used to code interview transcripts, and frequencies and chi-square analyses demonstrated pre/post-intervention comparisons for the OTC encounter variables.

Results: After Senior Section implementation, pharmacy staff were more likely to initiate (and be involved in) patient encounters, address more topics or problem/symptoms, provide details about OTC products, discuss appropriateness of OTC use, and discuss medication classes highlighted in the Senior Section. Pharmacy staff were less likely to need to leave the prescription department for extended periods; they also had fewer prolonged encounters or encounters about product location. Importantly, the Senior Section did not impede pharmacy workflow.

Discussion and Implications: The Senior Section prompted more frequent, effective, and efficient engagements between pharmacy staff and patients, which may substantially reduce OTC-related harms among older adults.

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