New Study Finds Pharmacists and Nurses are the Most Effective Health Care ‘Voices’ in Promoting Medication Adherence

This headline “New Study Finds Pharmacists and Nurses are the Most Effective Health Care ‘Voices’ in Promoting Medication Adherence” was trumpeted in the recent CVS news release. The researchers concluded:

The highest impact programs featured work by pharmacists talking to patients in a store, followed by nurses talking face-to-face with patients who were leaving a hospital.

It sounds good that pharmacists talking to patients would make a difference in adherence. However, the problem is at least twofold —

  1. When was the last time your pharmacist talked to you? You put in your prescription and then come back later to pick it up. Occasionally, the pharmacist behind the counter will ask whether you have any questions or perhaps enquire whether you are familiar with the drug. Of course, the researchers would probably say that’s the point — if the pharmacist did ask, adherence to medication by the patient would go up — but, that’s where patient privacy meets the real world (see point 2 below).
  2. Pharmacies are not set up to have a private conversation. How can pharmacists be able to advise patients in a manner or setting that patients will feel comfortable and not an “invasion” of their privacy where other members of the public may hear the discussion? As was pointed out in the discussion on Using Pharmacy to Improve your Success in Medicines Adherence: “The use of a pharmacy consultation room would go some way to address this as they are private areas where pharmacist and patient can have a discussion and not be overheard.” So, when was the last time you saw a private consultation room in a pharmacy? And, if there isn’t one, would the pharmacist be breaching patient privacy?

So, how could pharmacists really help improve adherence without breaching a patient’s privacy as others stand behind them in the “prescription pick-up” line?

Now, regarding nurses, the study seems to make sense because of the relationship which may develop between nurse and patient. I have run programs involving nurses and have seen it personally work (have you?). In NurseZone, here is what was said about nurses providing advice to patients:

Nurses can make a significant difference in patients’ understanding about their medications and their willingness to take the drugs as directed. Louisa Travers, RN, CCRN, a clinical nursing educator at Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn, N.Y., attributes that to the therapeutic relationship nurses develop with their patients. “We teach the patients as soon as they reach the hospital,” Travers said. “Patients trust nurses to give them good advice.”

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