Pharmacists are popular nowadays

The people are generally satisfied with the pharmacists, but he has little regard for him as a health consultant. This was determined by a study initiated by Janssen-Cilag. It contains an inventory of all representative investigations about attitudes and expectations of the last ten years as a first step, which should lead to further investigations. The results of this desk research study were presented by Professor Dr. Jürgen Wasem, health economist at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich, and Dr. Bernd Güther, social scientist as well as project manager and head of health care/economics at I+G Gesundheitsforschung, Munich, at a press conference at the end of September.

According to the study, the majority of the population considers the pharmacist to be understanding, competent, trustworthy and reliable. The social standing of the profession of pharmacist among the population is correspondingly high: On a popularity scale that lists 17 professions, the pharmacist ranks seventh. He is surpassed by doctors, priests, lawyers, university professors, ambassadors and entrepreneurs. (Source: Institut für Demoskopie Allensbach). The positive appearance is also confirmed by the percentage of respondents who have a “regular pharmacy”. In 1981, 59 percent of those surveyed stated this, in 1991 it was already 61 percent. The Apothekerverband Nordrhein (North Rhine-Westphalia Association of Pharmacists) even determined 84 percent for 1991. The fact that the number of pharmacies has risen considerably since the 1980s and would thus make it easier for customers to switch has therefore no influence.

However, the population is more critical of the pharmacist in his capacity as a consultant – at least when it comes to health problems beyond drug counselling. When asked to whom patients would rather entrust themselves, namely the doctor or the pharmacist, about 87 percent of 2000 respondents preferred the doctor. Only seven percent were in favour of the pharmacist. This resulted from an Emnid investigation of 1996 commissioned by the Hartmannbund. A study arranged by the ABDA Federal association of German pharmacist federations came to similar results: Here the pharmacists ranked likewise far behind the physicians – and even still behind the television and the health insurance companies.

The lack of a lasting relationship between the patient and the pharmacist is cited as an important reason. The patient appears here predominantly only in the role of the consumer and/or the buyer. Thus patients missed the confidential environment necessary for a consultation, which makes only a personal discussion possible. Also too little time could be spent in pharmacies for consulting discussions. A narrow majority of the asked ones of approximately 40 per cent against it believes that the pharmacist is not the competent partner in health questions.

If it concerns the consultation over medicaments, the results gape however apart. The survey commissioned by the ABDA determined an advisory rate of over 60 per cent in favour of the pharmacist, whereas studies – one each from the company health insurance funds and from Infratest Gesundheitsforschung on behalf of the Bundesfachverband der Arzneimittel (BAH) – came to a rate of only 30 per cent. According to the study, the different results can be traced back to a survey technique which has to be checked.

The pharmacist is the fourth most important source of information on the subject of health. Here it reaches – according to age broken down – 28, 25 and 32 per cent (18 to 34, 35 to 54 and 55 to 75 years). Also here the physician lies again in front (54, 60, 76 per cent), followed by television and magazines. After all, a considerable number of citizens access pharmacy magazines (13, 27, 36 percent). This puts them in sixth place.

According to the study, patients’ overall satisfaction with the health care system is relatively high. It received an average grade of 3.0 (the scale ranges from 1 to 5). The best score was 2.5 for health care provided by general practitioners. Drug provision was given a score of 2.6. However, patients are cautious about drugs. This is what more than 80 percent of the interviewed persons said in the surveys of 1990 as well as 1994. Between 70 and 80 percent at least believe to be able to estimate when they can treat their complaints themselves – without the help of the physician, self-medication in the Federal Republic of Germany.

According to Janssen-Cilag, this survey was the first to bundle the state of health of patients into a health care system. In order to close gaps in research, Janssen-Cilag intends to continue its work with its own representative primary survey. Only if one knows the attitudes and expectations of the patients, one can arrange the health system of the future customer-fairly, so the reasoning.

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