How to best manage time interaction with patients? Community pharmacist workload and service provision analysis

João Gregório, Afonso Miguel Cavaco, Luís Velez Lapão

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Background Primary health care disease management models are rooted in multidisciplinary participation; however, implementation of services is lagging behind desires and predictions. Barriers like workload and lack of demand have been described. The aim of this research is to observe the workload and work patterns of Portuguese community pharmacists, and relate it with the demand of pharmaceutical services. Method A time-and-motion observational study was performed to describe community pharmacists' workload in a sample of four pharmacies in the metropolitan Lisbon area. A reference list of activities to be observed was developed by reviewing other studies of community pharmacy work. This study took place during a weekday's 8-h shift, focusing on pharmacists' activities. Data to be collected included the type and duration of the activity, who performed it and where. To estimate the demand of pharmaceutical care services, “thematic-patient scenarios” were developed. These scenarios were based on the defined daily dose and package size of the most consumed medicines in Portugal, combined with data obtained from the four pharmacies' information systems on the day the observational study took place. Results Between 67.0% and 81.8% of the registered activities were pharmacist-patient interactions. These interactions summed 158.44 min, with a mean duration of 3.98 min per interaction. On average, participant pharmacies' professionals handled 4.2 prescriptions and 0.9 over-the-counter (OTC) consultations per hour. About one third of the day was spent performing administrative and non-differentiated tasks. About 54.92 min were registered as free time, 50% of which were “micro pauses” with 1 min or less. The most dispensed therapeutic subgroup was antihypertensive drugs, while the dispensation of antidiabetics was characterized by a high number of packages sold per interaction. From the developed scenarios, one can estimate that a chronic patient may visit the pharmacy 4–9 times per year, depending on the condition presented. Conclusion Workload results are very similar to findings from studies in other countries, which may be an indication of uniformity of community pharmacy practice across countries. The amount of time a pharmacist has at the counter to interact with a patient during a year renders disease management or therapeutic management non-viable. Also, the perception of “lack of time,” many times reported as a barrier for service provision, must be called into question, since substantial available time was found. However, to turn this available time into usable time, redesign of work processes and new role definition are necessary. Both better management and new communication channels should be developed to address this gap and increase patient follow-up services.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-147
Number of pages15
JournalResearch in Social and Administrative Pharmacy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017


  • Community pharmacy
  • Pharmaceutical services
  • Pharmacist workload
  • Pharmacist-patient interaction
  • Portugal
  • Service demand

UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-Being


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