April 12th, 2019

// Questions about your Health? Pharmacists Can Provide Your Perfect Rx

Questions about your Health? Pharmacists Can Provide Your Perfect Rx     

Fairleigh Dickinson University, April 11, 2019 – Have you ever had a question about your health and wanted an answer in a quick and convenient manner? If the answer is yes, it turns out you are not alone. A majority of Americans nationwide routinely tap the expertise of pharmacists and online health-related websites.

In a survey of adults nationwide, Fairleigh Dickinson University’s School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in Madison, New Jersey asked Americans about their use of pharmacists for information when they have a question about their health. Over half of all Americans consult with the pharmacist on duty when they visit a pharmacy (55%). A quarter (28%) do so routinely, with 27 percent who do so less often. 

The survey finds that most speak with pharmacists only about prescription drug use, even though they can get other health related information from them. Two-thirds (65%) seek prescription drug counseling, with significantly fewer asking about over-the-counter drug usage and side effects, injectable vaccines and immunization delivery or medical devices (15% combined). Among those who do not regularly engage with pharmacists, a majority say they simply don’t need their assistance (66%). 

“The fact that so many say they don’t need the assistance of a pharmacist speaks to the public’s unawareness of the pharmacist’s role in healthcare. Pharmacists are easily accessible and can provide reliable, patient-specific information tailored to the needs of the individual,” said Dr. Otito Iwuchukwu, an Assistant Professor at the School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.  “With pharmacists becoming increasingly relied upon as a source to receive healthcare services, more people will recognize the role of pharmacists and seek them out to meet their health-related needs in the coming years. Pharmacists routinely check for drug interactions, make medication recommendations to other healthcare providers and patients, provide medication counseling, ensure patients are taking their medications safely, assist in navigating insurance drug coverage or suggest a more affordable medication option, and immunize.”

According to national polls, pharmacists consistently remain among the most trusted and ethical healthcare professionals. 

“The ability to access a pharmacist for the provision of medication information without an appointment at no cost and at any time gives credence to the value and positive role they play in helping everyone lead healthy lives,” said Barbara Rossi, Assistant Dean at FDU School of Pharmacy & Healthy Sciences.

Online sources

The same survey asked about whether and to what extent people trust online sources for health information. It turns out that sources such as WebMD, disease specific sites, and sites affiliated with medical centers provide somewhat of a mixed bag for Americans who use them. Around half (51%) use them overall, with women (54%) significantly more likely than men to visit a website (43%), and older Americans (60 and older) the least likely (11%). WebMD or other general purpose health websites attract the most visitors (40%), with hospital affiliated sources (20%), and other conditions or disease specific sources (15%) used less often. Despite widespread use, there’s some evidence that online sources bring with them some degree of skepticism. 

Among those who use online sources with some regularity, their usefulness rates about a seven on a scale of one to ten, with ten indicating the highest degree of usefulness. When asked why they don’t go online for general health and symptom inquiries, a fifth (19%) say they avoid them because they don’t trust the information, find the information contradictory, or feel anxious when they read what they find. Most (53%), however, go directly to a doctor or other health professional when they have a question.

“Online resources can be useful tools to learn about general health-related topics. It is important for consumers to know that the information gained from online searches may not have the same level of applicability to every individual. Also, any written material is open to misinterpretation and online health websites are not immune to this,” said Elif Özdener, Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Practice at Fairleigh Dickinson University School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. “I am excited to see that over half of those who read online health sources use the information to have discussions with their healthcare providers. Patient-centered healthcare is a significant factor in achieving positive health outcomes. People that research and read health information can have productive conversations with their providers and increase the likelihood of achieving their health-related goals.” 

Methodology – The National Health Survey was conducted by The Fairleigh Dickinson University Poll on behalf of the FDU School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. A random sample was drawn of adults nationwide, including in Alaska and Hawaii, and interviews were conducted on landlines and cellphones between January 28 through February 13, 2019. Respondents were screened in order to interview an adult, 18 or older. 

A total of 1000 interviews were administered by ReconMR in San Marcos, Texas. 296 interviews were conducted on landlines and 704 were conducted on cellphones by professionally trained interviewers using a CATI (Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing) system. All interviews were conducted in English. Telephone numbers were purchased by ReconMR through Marketing Systems Group. 

Results for the total sample have a margin of sampling error of +/- 4.03 percentage points, including the design effect. 

Survey results are also subject to non-sampling error. This kind of error, which cannot be measured, arises from a number of factors including, but not limited to, non-response (eligible individuals refusing to be interviewed), question wording, the order in which questions are asked, and variations among interviewers. 

Weighting was applied to the sample to more accurately treat the respondents are representatives of the total population of the United States. 2019 estimates of the U.S. population by Claritas were used to weight the data. In this case, the proportions of three characteristics were used; Race, Age and Gender.  Each respondent falls into one, and only one, set and no respondent is left out.

For the second year, the FDU poll received an “A” rating from statistician Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight blog. The ratings measure both accuracy and bias for all major polling services in the United States, providing an update to similar research the poll watchers conducted in 2014. FDU’s “A” rating puts it in the top 15 of the more than 380 polling institutes reviewed and graded from A+ through F. The FDU poll was found to have a 94 percent accuracy rate for predicting election results, and is one of only three A-rated polling institutes with zero bias to their rankings. 

Tables 

Have you been to a pharmacy in the last few months? 

1 Yes    74%

2 No     26%

8 DK (vol)   0 

9 Refused (vol)   0

Image

On average, approximately how many times a month do you visit a pharmacy?

Record number    

0 Less than once a month  37%

1     32%

2     14%

3+     15%

88 DK (vol)   2%   

99 Refused (vol)   0

Image

When you visit a pharmacy, how often do you speak with or interact with the pharmacist on duty?

1 Always    28%

2 Sometimes   27%

3 Rarely    29%

4 Never    16%

8 DK (vol)   1%

9 Refused (vol)   0

Image

Why do you NOT speak with the pharmacist on duty? [N = 155]

1 They are never available    3%

2 I find the other pharmacy staff helpful enough  9%

3 I don’t need to speak with them    66%

4 I don’t know what they do beyond filling prescriptions 7%

8 DK (vol)      9%

9 Refused (vol)      6%

Image

Why do you speak with the pharmacist on duty? Choose as many reasons as apply.  [N = 833]

1 Prescription drug counseling    65%

2 Over the counter drug counseling   10%

3 Medical device counseling    4%

4 Injectable drug counseling    1%

5 Immunizations       0

6 Other       0

8 DK (vol)      35%

9 Refused (vol)      6% 

Image

How often, if at all, do you go online to look for information about your health or a specific symptom?

1 Always       21%

2 Sometimes      30%

3 Rarely       22%

4 Never       27%

8 DK (vol)      0

9 Refused (vol)      0

Image

Why do you NOT use online sources for information about your health? N = 273

1 I don’t trust online information    13%

2 The information is often contradictory   3%

3 I go directly to a doctor or other health professional 53%

4 The information is hard to understand   0

5 I do not have access to online information  13%

6 I get anxious when I read the results    3%

7 Other [vol]      14%

8 DK (vol)      1%

9 Refused (vol)      1%

Image

Which of the following sources are you the most likely to use for getting information about your health? [N = 727]

1 WebMD or other general purpose health website   40% 

2 A government source, such as the Centers for Disease Control  8%

3 A source that’s affiliated with a hospital or medical facility 20%

4 A source that’s related to a specific condition or disease  15%

5 Other (vol)       14%

8 DK (vol)       2%

9 Refused (vol)       0

Image

On a scale of one to ten, with ten meaning the information is USEFUL, and one meaning the information is NOT USEFUL, how would you rate the information you get online about your health? [N = 727]

Average 7

Image

What do you do with the information that you get online about your health? Do you… [N = 727]

1 Self-treat based on the website’s recommendation  15%

2 Discuss with my doctor      53%

3 Change my behavior       11%

4 Nothing       16%

8 DK (vol)       4%

9 Refused (vol)       2%

Image

Question wording and order

First I’d like to ask you some questions about pharmacies.  And by pharmacy, I mean a place you go to purchase over the counter and prescription drugs.

PS1 Have you been to a pharmacy in the last few months? 

1 Yes

2 No 

8 DK (vol) 

9 Refused (vol) 

PS2 On average, approximately how many times a month do you visit a pharmacy?

Record number

888 DK (vol) 

999 Refused (vol) 

PS3 When you visit a pharmacy, how often do you speak with or interact with the pharmacist on duty?

1 Always  ASK PS5

2 Sometimes ASK PS5

3 Rarely  ASK PS5 

4 Never  ASK PS4

8 DK (vol) 

9 Refused (vol) 

PS4 Why do you NOT speak with the pharmacist on duty?[rotate options]

1 They are never available    GO TO ON1

2 I find the other pharmacy staff helpful enough  GO TO ON1

3 I don’t need to speak with them    GO TO ON1

4 I don’t know what they do beyond filling prescriptions GO TO ON1

8 DK (vol)      GO TO ON1

9 Refused (vol)      GO TO ON1

PS5 Why do you speak with the pharmacist on duty? Choose as many reasons as apply. [Rotate options]

1 Prescription drug counseling

2 Over the counter drug counseling

3 Medical device counseling

4 Injectable drug counseling

5 Immunizations 

6 Other

8 DK (vol) 

9 Refused (vol) 

Now I have some questions about where you go for medical information.

ON1 How often, if at all, do you go online to look for information about your health or a specific symptom?

1 Always  ASK ON3

2 Sometimes ASK ON3

3 Rarely  ASK ON3 

4 Never  ASK ON2

8 DK (vol) ASK ON3

9 Refused (vol) ASK ON3

ON2 Why do you NOT use online sources for information about your health?[rotate options]

1 I don’t trust online information    GO TO ASP1

2 The information is often contradictory   GO TO ASP1

3 I go directly to a doctor or other health professional GO TO ASP1 

4 The information is hard to understand   GO TO ASP1 

5 I do not have access to online information  GO TO ASP1

6 I get anxious when I read the results    GO TO ASP1

7 Other [vol]      GO TO ASP1

8 DK (vol)      GO TO ASP1

9 Refused (vol)      GO TO ASP1

ON3 Which of the following sources are you the most likely to use for getting information about your health? [Rotate options]

1 WebMD or other general purpose health website

2 A government source, such as the Centers for Disease Control 

3 A source that’s affiliated with a hospital or medical facility

4 A source that’s related to a specific condition or disease

5 Other (vol)

8 DK (vol) 

9 Refused (vol) 

ON4 On a scale of one to ten, with ten meaning the information is USEFUL, and one meaning the information is NOT USEFUL, how would you rate the information you get online about your health?

Record number

11 Depends (vol)

18 DK (vol

19 Refused (vol)

ON5 What do you do with the information that you get online about your health? Do you…[Rotate options]

1 Self-treat based on the website’s recommendation

2 Discuss with my doctor

3 Change my behavior 

4 Nothing

8 DK (vol) 

9 Refused (vol) 

Weighted Sample characteristics

 N (%)MoE
Male487 (49%)+/- 4
Female513 (51%)+/- 4
18-34277 (28%)+/- 6
35-59378 (38%)+/- 5
60+277 (28%)+/- 6
Refused69 (7%)+/- 12
White569 (57%)+/- 4
Black105 (11%)+/- 10
Hispanic184 (18%)+/- 7
Other141 (14%)+/- 8
White569 (57%)+/- 4
Non-white431 (43%+/- 5

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