BackgroundPharmacy professionals working in community pharmacies play an important role in advising patients about medicines. One key indicator of the quality of these encounters is duration. In a community pharmacy setting, longer interactions have been associated with reports of greater patient satisfaction, more information, larger patient centeredness and with patients contributing more to the interaction, resulting in improving the quality of services provided, i.e. better patient health outcomes. Automation in pharmacies is believed to release the pharmacy professionals from some of the logistical procedures, thereby giving the professionals more time to counsel patients during medicines dispensing. Job satisfaction is a key determinant of professionals’ practice and involvement in professional development. It has been scarcely measured in pharmacy in Portugal and there are no studies approaching a potential relation between job satisfaction and encounter characteristics (e.g. duration), professional and patient backgrounds. There are also no studies on the automation and its potential impact on the employees’ job satisfaction.
PurposeTo analyse the interaction length between pharmacy staff and patients in community pharmacies, involving all pharmacy staff (both pharmacists and technical assistants), as well as assess the interaction attributes through a non-verbal communication component. Also, to investigate whether there are differences in main interaction variables between community pharmacies with and without stocking and dispensing automation. The job satisfaction of the pharmacy staff and the interaction variables’ impact on their job satisfaction was also investigated.
MethodsThe study followed a cross-sectional descriptive design. The study was divided in two arms: The first was an interaction study that used non-participant, overt observation of episodes with pharmacy staff interacting with patients; the second arm was a self-administered questionnaire applied to study job satisfaction of participating pharmacy staff, using a validated version of the Warr-Cook-Wall scale. Pharmacies in greater Lisbon with and without automation were purposely selected to cover a cross-section of urban community pharmacies. The pharmacies with and without automation were loosely matched, therefore paired comparisons were not conducted apart from with the automation itself. No statistical sampling or sample power procedures were assumed. In total, observations were carried out in 11 pharmacies. The participants comprised of consenting pharmacy employees, both pharmacists and technicians.
ResultsNo significant differences between female and male pharmacy staff, neither between pharmacists and technical assistants was found in terms of duration of interactions. ANOVA and Post Hoc multiple comparisons found a significant difference in duration lying between the service provided to young and mature adults (p=0.017). Interaction duration was not significantly affected by the automation. With a maximum overall job satisfaction score of 7, the mean overall satisfaction for all pharmacy professionals observed was 5.52 (SD=0.98), and there were no significant differences between the professional’s gender, category or whether the professional was employed in a pharmacy with automation or not, however the differences were significant between the age groups of the professionals. Overall job satisfaction was influenced by average number of prescriptions per episode, and average number of POM packages sold per encounter, but not by automation.
Discussion and conclusionThe duration of the interactions was not dependent on characteristics of the pharmacy staff (e.g. pharmacists vs. technicians), but with increasing age of the patient and increasing number of packages sold, the interactions lasted longer. To the contrary of what has been endorsed, the pharmacy work, in terms of duration of episodes and the satisfaction of the pharmacy professionals, was not much influenced by implemented automation in the pharmacy. The impact of the interaction features on the job satisfaction pointed in the direction of when professionals have more to do based on a greater number of products being dispensed, instead of an interaction mainly based on pure counselling and communication activities, some facets of job satisfaction decreased. This might be a result of an increased traditional workload and less time to develop clinical activities and counsel the patient. These conclusions need to be better supported in further research.