In a recent study, one of many reasons customers gave for seeking health advice from pharmacies rather than heading to a GP was: “Sometimes the pharmacist knows more than the doctor.”
Pharmacies can be confusing places for shoppers, with aisles of potential solutions for a range of complex ailments. However, pharmacists are also seen as a trusted source of information, and as many as 80 million customer interactions are to consult with community pharmacies, across Australia, for health advice each year.
The reasons for this, according to the responses collated by the study, are varied:
- “Doctors don’t give you an option, whereas pharmacists give you options or choices.”
- “Chemists know more about drugs than doctors.”
- “You don’t need to pay for advice at the pharmacy, as you do if you went to a doctor.”
- “No appointment is required and time is saved.”
- “I was not too sick and didn’t think I needed to see a GP.”
- “I ask the advice of the pharmacist about minor ailments.”
The research, conducted with the financial support of the Department of Health & Ageing as part of the Fourth Community Pharmacy Agreement, involved 24 Victorian community pharmacies and sought to assess how often and how well pharmacists in Australia make decisions to either treat or refer consumers to other health care professionals.
It found that community pharmacies are doing far more than distributing drugs – customers head in-store looking for advice and information.
- 35% of customers visited community pharmacies to enquire about a health issue.
- 31% of those who sought advice did so for someone else – child, parent, partner or spouse.
- 38% of customers were seeking advice for the first time about their particular health issue, while 54% had previously sought assistance from a GP or community pharmacy about the problem.
- The main reasons customers sought advice related to skin conditions, and conditions affecting the ear, nose and throat.
- The next most common conditions asked about were those affecting the gastrointestinal tract, the musculoskeletal system (including sports injuries), dental and oral issues, and the eyes (mostly dry eyes and conjunctivitis).