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Management activities taking up a quarter of a pharmacists’ day, with less than a third of their time spent with patients, new study finds

Australian pharmacists spend only around 32% of the working day interacting with patients, new research indicates.

A time in motion study conducted in three Sydney pharmacies (studying five pharmacists) revealed that almost a quarter of the average pharmacists’ day was spent counselling (23.9%), another quarter dispensing (23.9%) and a further quarter engaging in professional management – the largest component at 24.2%.   

Professional management was considered to consist of administration tasks, updating records, updating rosters, handling deliveries and maintenance.

The authors, from Sydney Medical School, Norway and Sweden, calculated that the pharma cists spent a majority (57%) of their time at locations where customer interactions were limited – 51% of time behind the desk in the dispensing/compounding area and 6% in the back office, while 29% of their time was spent at the sales desk and 17% in the front of shop.

They calculated that the pharmacists spent around 9% of their day interacting directly with other pharmacy staff and 7% with other people – such as doctors, delivery persons and external representatives.

“While dispensing and counselling are expected of pharmacists, a large proportion of time is also spent on professional management activities such as administration, updating of rosters and receiving of deliveries,” the authors said.

“Task shifting of some of these professional management activities to a pharmacy assistant… may free up some pharmacist time to commit to chronic disease management activities,” they added.

The need to free up time was essential as the four most common tasks undertaken having a median time of 1-2 minutes.

“Interventions that take significantly longer than this eg. 10-15 minutes, therefore may not be easily integrated into current workflow.”  

The three pharmacies included: a small urban single-owner pharmacy, a medium-sized urban pharmacy attached to a GP clinic and a large urban commercial chain pharmacy.

A total of 1410 separate tasks were recorded over 35.37 hours of observation. The median time per task was less than nine minutes.

“Without knowledge of pharmacy workflow, future pharmacy interventions may not be integrated successfully into pharmacy practice,” the authors said.

They called for a  larger study involving greater numbers of pharmacies and pharmacists across pharmacies serving a wider range of demographic and geographic areas.

The study was published in the journal Research In Social and Administrative Pharmacy

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