US Pharm. 2015;40(10):3.

According to the recently released J.D. Power 2015 U.S. Pharmacy Study, brick-and-mortar pharmacies are holding their own with respect to patient satisfaction scores. This is no small feat considering recent changes affecting healthcare, especially the various—and oftentimes complex—provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The study, which is based on input from 14,914 patients who filled a prescription during the 3 months leading up to the survey period in May and June 2015, measures prescription ordering, store, cost competitiveness, nonpharmacist staff, and pharmacists themselves.

Pharmacies continue to set the pace in the healthcare space, garnering the highest marks in the sector. Measured on a 1,000-point scale, patient satisfaction with supermarket pharmacies rose from 843 to 851 in the 2015 study, and chain drugstore pharmacies saw a 2-point bump to 842 from 840 last year. Contrastingly, satisfaction with mail-order pharmacies dropped by 2 points to 820.

The Face-to-Face Factor

More face-to-face interactions between pharmacists and patients—especially private consultations—translated to higher scores. According to the survey, just asking patients whether they want to talk with a pharmacist increased overall satisfaction by 54 points, and making a private consultation area available and ensuring that patients feel that their concerns are being handled with discretion raised satisfaction by 99 points.

Patient-pharmacist interaction also boosts the bottom line, the survey finds: Patients who speak with pharmacists are much more likely to buy other items from the drugstore. Study authors also find that 44% of patients who speak with a pharmacist “strongly agree they feel loyal to their pharmacy,” as opposed to just 35% of those who do not.

The ACA’s Impact

Patient satisfaction scores linked to increased interaction with pharmacists are likely to continue to grow, helped along by aspects of the ACA. As cited in “The Affordable Care Act and the Pharmacist,” a feature article in this issue, “Pharmacists have an unparalleled opportunity to spearhead improvements in overall quality of care and to create a better-coordinated healthcare system. Pharmacists can be part of medical home teams and can help improve the health of high-risk patients and patients with chronic conditions in primary care settings.”

Furthermore, “Patients will have greater access to pharmacy services through medical homes and a new program providing medication therapy management (MTM) services as part of collaborative patient care and coordinated home-based care for high-need patients,” the authors add. “It is expected that more patients with chronic diseases will receive pharmacist-provided MTM services under a new program established to improve quality of patient care and reduce overall treatment costs. This program will provide grants or contracts for pharmacists’ MTM services to collaboratively treat patients who have certain risk factors or other high-risk problems.”

Coy About Counseling?

Despite the apparent benefits, greater customer-initiated interaction may not happen overnight. In a small study published online in March in the journal PEC—Patient Education & Counseling, fully 85% of 116 video-recorded interactions in community pharmacies in the Netherlands were initiated by the pharmacy staffs—not by customers. Study authors reported that first-prescription conversations centered largely around use (83%) and dosage instructions (95%), while during first-refill discussions, topics centered on adverse events (44%) and beneficial effects (38%). The researchers noted that patients’ perceptions and preferences about prescribed medications were seldom discussed.

By any measure, it is clear that pharmacists are taking a more proactive role in contributing to better health outcomes. This can only add to the profession’s perceived value and generate even higher satisfaction grades.

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