People living with persistent pain in Australia often cannot access adequate care to manage their pain. Therefore, as the most accessible healthcare professionals, community pharmacists have an important role to play in helping to improve patient outcomes. Hence, it is important to investigate patient needs and expectations in terms of counseling interactions with pharmacists, along with pharmacists’ approach to counseling interactions with these patients.
The nature of patient–pharmacist counseling interactions was explored with seven patients (one focus group), and 10 practicing pharmacists (two focus groups, three semi-structured interviews). The themes identified informed the development of an online survey that was advertised online to patients and pharmacists across Australia.
A total of 95 patients and 208 pharmacists completed the survey. Overall, more than half of patients (77/95) were satisfied with the care provided by their pharmacist, but only a third (71/205) of pharmacists were satisfied with the care they provided to patients. The majority of patients (67/94) reported that pharmacists provided good information about medications. This aligned with pharmacists’ responses, as most reported focusing on medication side effects (118/188) and instructions for taking pain medication (93/183) during patient interactions. However, when asked about empathy and rapport from pharmacists, only half to two-thirds (48–61/95) of patients expressed positive views. Overall, half of the patients (39/75) wanted a caring, empathetic, respectful, and private conversation with the pharmacist, and nearly half (40/89) perceived the pharmacist's role as providing (new) information on alternative pharmacological and non-pharmacological therapies, including general advice on pain management.
There was a disparity in the nature of the interaction and information that patients wanted from pharmacists, compared to what was provided by pharmacists. Training and education may help pharmacists to better engage in patient-centered care when interacting with people living with persistent pain, thereby improving health outcomes for these patients.