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Are consumers willing to pay for pharmacy services? Not in many cases it would seem

Little guidance is currently available on whether healthcare consumers will be truly willing to pay for pharmacist-provided professional services, say US researchers.

Their literature review of the “limited number” of studies currently published revealed little clear pattern, especially when services are vague or ill-defined, but even when specific services are examined, it was often difficult to ascertain a clear picture from the findings.

Overall, there was little evidence to suggest age, education or income status were associated with a willingness to pay (WTP) for services to any statistically significant level, the authors said.

Surprisingly, healthier respondents were willing to pay more to prevent medication-related problems, they found while “another unanticipated finding… was that respondents who had prior experience with medication-related problems were less willing to pay for pharmacist services than respondents with no history of medication-related problems”.

The review examined 31 studies published since 1999, three of which were Australian.

1) A 2012 NSW study looking at a specialised asthma service that were associated with positive marginal willingness to pay. Among the 80 participants, access to a pharmacist, availability of a private area for consultation, provision of lung function testing, comprehensive advice and cost of service had “significant and positive” marginal willingness to pay (WTP) implications.

Other factors including frequency of visits, number of days with symptoms of asthma, and interaction with the pharmacy staff were not significant predictors of WTP, the authors found. The authors found a significantly positive correlation with age and education level with WTP. No significant associations were found between gender and income level. The marginal WTP for the total service was A$94.86.

2) A 2014 study evaluating the perspectives and WTP on weight management services performed in a pharmacy setting.

Around half of the 403 participants were not willing to pay for the service. Those who were willing to pay for the service provided a median value of A$10, with some willing to pay up to A$50. No data was available on demographic factors affecting WTP.

The main reasons stated for a lack of WTP were that pharmacists may not be suitably trained to give advice in the domain or may have a conflict of interest due to profiting from sales of recommended products.

3) A 2015 study looking at whether pharmacy customers in WA were willing to pay for an advanced model of pharmacy consultation.

Of the 28% of respondents that were willing to pay for the more advanced service, the median WTP was A$15. Education level was the only demographic variable that significantly influenced a participant’s positive attitude toward WTP for the more advanced consultation service.

No significant associations were found between age, sex and WTP.

“An important objective for the profession of pharmacy is quantifying the economic value of pharmacy services,” said the US authors of the literature review.

“Understanding the pharmacy services that consumers value, and understanding the level of their monetary willingness to pay for those services will be crucial as the profession continues to work toward establishing a sustainable and economically viable role within the evolving health care systems”.

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

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