Questions about your Health? Pharmacists Can Provide Your Perfect Rx
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.
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.”
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 cell phones 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.