January, 2017 - SUPPORT Summary of a systematic review | print this article |

Do additional services provided by pharmacists reduce healthcare costs or the demand for healthcare?

The role of pharmacists includes dispensing medication, and the packaging and compounding of prescriptions. But over the last two decades these responsibilities have expanded to include ensuring the proper use of medication as well as identifying, preventing and resolving drug-related problems. Pharmacists also promote health services and provide educational information.

 

Key messages

  • The provision of additional services by pharmacists targeted at patients, such as patient health education and follow-up, may lead to.

-A decrease in the rate of hospitalisation, general practice visits and emergency room visits.

-A reduction in patients’ medication costs.

-Improvements in some clinical outcomes.

  • The provision of additional services by pharmacists targeted at healthcare professionals, such as educational outreach visits, may improve patient outcomes.
  • The applicability of the findings to low-income countries may be limited by pharmacist numbers, patients and physicians’ attitudes to pharmacists, pharmacists’ training, and laws governing pharmaceutical practice.

Background

Pharmacists play an important role in providing and interpreting information related to self-medication and self-care. As these practices become more popular, the role of pharmacists in community pharmacies that offer patient care is likely to be enhanced. Increased demands for healthcare, the complex and expanding range of available medicines, the greater use of prescribed medications, and poor patient adherence, are all factors that have contributed to pharmacists needing to deliver patient-targeted services. These services include ensuring that medicines are correctly used, as well as the identification, prevention and resolution of drug-related problems (such as adverse effects). Pharmacists also contribute to the provision of health promotion services (including screening services for chronic diseases) and provide educational information.



About the systematic review underlying this summary

Review objectives: To examine the effectiveness of services provided by pharmacists on patient outcomes and health service utilisation and costs in low- and middle-income countries.

Type of What the review authors searched for What the review authors found

Study designs & interventions

Any health or drug-related, patient-targeted service delivered by pharmacists (other than drug compounding and dispensing, and excluding other services such as the selling of cosmetics or other non-pharmaceutical products) evaluated in a randomized trial, non-randomized trial, controlled before-after study, or interrupted time series study.

12 randomized trials in middle-income countries were included. 11 examined pharmacist interventions targeted at patients, and 1 evaluated a pharmacist intervention targeted at healthcare professionals. All the included studies compared pharmacist-provided services with usual care.

Participants

Pharmacists (or pharmacies) delivering services in outpatient settings other than, or in addition to, drug compounding and dispensing.

Practising pharmacists and research pharmacists.

Settings

Outpatient settings.

Sudan (1 study), India (2), Egypt (1), Paraguay (1), Thailand (2), Chile (2), Bulgaria (2), and South Africa (1).

Outcomes

Objective measurement of patient outcomes and process outcomes such as health service utilisation and costs.

Process outcomes (4 studies), rate of hospitalisation (2), number of visits to private clinics or outpatient clinics and emergency rooms in hospitals (1), medication costs of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma (1), the number of visits to general practitioners (2), clinical and humanistic outcomes (11), patient outcomes (7), asthma score (1).

Date of most recent search: March 2010.
Limitations: This is a well-conducted systematic review with minor limitations. There were few evaluations of impact that allowed robust conclusions to be drawn, particularly as many of the studies did not take all the costs involved into account.

Pande S, Hiller JE, Nkansah N, Bero L. The effect of pharmacist-provided non-dispensing services on patient outcomes, health service utilisation and costs in low- and middle-income countries. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2013, Issue 2.

Summary of findings

Twelve studies were eligible for this review. Of these, 11 examined pharmacist interventions targeted at patients and one evaluated a pharmacist intervention targeted at healthcare professionals. Seven studies were undertaken in lower middle-income countries - Sudan (1), India (2), Egypt (1), Paraguay (1), Thailand (2) and five in upper middle-income countries – Chile (2), Bulgaria (2), South Africa (1). None of the studies presented data on total costs. One study presented data on patients’ medication costs. All the studies provided data on patient outcomes and 4 studies examined health service utilisation.

 

1) Pharmacist-provided services targeted at patients versus usual care

Eleven of the 12 studies compared pharmacist-provided services targeted at patients with usual care. Interventions included counselling/patient Education (3), counselling or patient education + a booklet (4), counselling + drug review (1), a pharmaceutical plan with scheduled follow-up + patient education + a booklet (4), counselling + a booklet + a special medicine container (1), and counselling + a special medicine container (1). The duration of the interventions ranged between 20 and 50 minutes. Three of the 11 interventions were conducted over periods ranging between nine weeks and six months.

  • Pharmacist services targeted at patients may lead to reductions in the use of specific health services such as hospital admissions and general practitioner visits, a reduction in patients’ medication costs, and improvements in some clinical outcomes. The certainty of this evidence is low.
  • No studies were identified that examined pharmacist-provided services targeted at patients versus the same services provided by other healthcare professionals, or the same services provided by untrained health workers.

Pharmacist-provided services targeted at patients versus usual care

People:  Pharmacists (or pharmacies) delivering services in outpatient settings.
Settings
:  Sudan (1), India (2), Egypt (1), Paraguay (1), Thailand (2), Chile (2), Bulgaria (2), and South Africa (1).
Intervention
: Patient education and counselling (11), complete pharmaceutical care follow-up (3), bespoke educational booklets explaining the required disease, medication and lifestyle modifications (7).
Comparison
: Usual care.

Outcomes Impact Certainty of the evidence
(GRADE)

Health service utilisation

Additional pharmacist services may reduce the rate of hospitalisation, general practice visits and emergency visits. In one study, for example, the reduction in general practice visits was 14% for the intervention group and 0% for the control group.

Low

Medication costs

Additional pharmacist services may reduce medication costs of patients with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Other costs were not reported.

Low

Clinical outcomes

Additional pharmacist services may lead to improvements in clinical outcomes* for diabetic and hypertensive patients; e.g. reductions in fasting plasma glucose levels or systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

Low

GRADE: GRADE Working Group grades of evidence (see above and last page).

* Fasting blood glucose, random blood glucose, glycosylated haemoglobin, systolic blood pressure, blood cholesterol, peak expiratory flow rate, clinical conditions and approaches to measurement of outcomes varied across studies.


2) Pharmacist-provided services targeted at healthcare professionals versus usual care

One study evaluated educational outreach by pharmacists. The aim of this study was to improve the diagnosis, prescribing and follow-up care provided by general practitioners to children with asthma. The study reported an improvement in an asthma symptom score in the intervention group compared to the control group. The duration of the visits was 30 minutes and two visits were conducted over 12 weeks.

  • Pharmacist services targeted at health professionals, such as educational outreach visits, may improve patient outcomes. The certainty of this evidence is low.
  • The effect of pharmacist services targeted at healthcare professionals on total costs is uncertain. No studies were found that reported costs.
  • No studies were found that assessed pharmacist-provided services targeted at healthcare professionals versus the same services provided by other healthcare professionals, or the same services provided by untrained health workers.

Pharmacist-provided services targeted at healthcare professionals versus usual care in low- and middle-income countries

People:  Pharmacists delivering educational outreach visits to general practitioners.
Settings
:  South Africa.
Intervention
: Educational outreach visits aimed at improving diagnosis, prescribing and follow-up care for children with asthma.
Comparison
: Usual care.

Outcomes Impact Certainty of the evidence
(GRADE)

Patient outcome

There was an improvement in asthma scores as reported by the parents or guardians of children that were cared for by general practitioners in the educational outreach group in one study.

Low

GRADE: GRADE Working Group grades of evidence (see above and last page).

Relevance of the review for low-income countries

Findings Interpretation*
APPLICABILITY
  • The included studies were conducted in middle-income countries.
  • The pharmacists in the included studies may have received supplementary training.  
  • Expanding the role of pharmacists is dependent on having a workforce able to supply sufficient numbers of competent pharmacists, pharmacy technicians or assistants.
  • Regulatory frameworks are needed to allow pharmacists to extend their activities beyond their traditional professional responsibilities.
  • There may be too few pharmacists in low-income countries and they may lack sufficient training or support to assume additional roles and responsibilities.
  • Other healthcare professionals may oppose expanding the role of pharmacists, especially those responsible for medication prescriptions.
EQUITY

The distribution of outpatient pharmacies and pharmacists may vary, especially between rural and urban areas.

  • Expanding the role of pharmacists could reduce inequalities if, for example, help from pharmacists is available when access to other healthcare professionals is limited. However, if pharmacists are unavailable in underserved areas, allowing pharmacists to expand their roles may increase inequalities between urban and rural areas.
ECONOMIC CONSIDERATIONS

None of the studies provided a full costing of the interventions or their impacts.

  • Insufficient information was provided to allow for the assessment of the costs or savings associated with services provided by pharmacists. These costs might include training costs of pharmacists, medication costs, costs of healthcare professional fees, and transportation costs for patients.
MONITORING & EVALUATION

No studies were undertaken in low-income countries, no studies compared services delivered by pharmacists to the same services delivered by others, and only one study assessed services targeted at healthcare professionals.

  • The monitoring of health service utilisation, prescription data and costs should be undertaken. Randomized trials are needed to evaluate changes in the role of outpatient pharmacists in low‑income countries. This should be done before attempts are made to scale-up any proposed changes.
*Judgements made by the authors of this summary, not necessarily those of the review authors, based on the findings of the review and consultation with researchers and policymakers in low-income countries. For additional details about how these judgements were made see: http://www.supportsummaries.org/methods

Additional information

Related literature

Nkansah N, Mostovetsky O, Yu C, et al. Effect of outpatient pharmacists' non-dispensing roles on patient outcomes and prescribing patterns. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2010, Issue 7. Art. No.: CD000336.

 

Roughead EE, Semple SJ, Vitry AI. Pharmaceutical care services: a systematic review of published studies, 1990 to 2003, examining effectiveness in improving patient outcomes. International Journal of Pharmacy Practice. 2005; 13:53-70.

 

This summary was prepared by

Fatima Suleman, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

Conflict of interest

None declared. For details, see: www.supportsummaries.org/coi

Acknowledgements

This summary has been peer reviewed by: Elizeus Rutebemberwa, Sami Pande, and Hanna Bergman.

This review should be cited as

Pande S, Hiller JE, Nkansah N, Bero L. The effect of pharmacist-provided non-dispensing services on patient outcomes, health service utilisation and costs in low- and middle-income countries. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2013, Issue 2. Art. No.: CD010398.

The summary should be cited as

Suleman F. Do additional services provided by pharmacists reduce healthcare costs or the demand for healthcare? A SUPPORT Summary of a systematic review. August 2016. www.supportsummaries.org

Keywords

Evidence-informed health policy, evidence-based, systematic review, health systems research, health care, low and middle-income countries, developing countries, primary health care, pharmacy services.



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