Are professional pharmacy services being offered for free in pharmacies? A feasibility study exploring the use of a time motion study in New Zealand

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Community Pharmacy Services, Pharmaceutical Services, Patient Care, Remuneration, Professional Practice, Workflow, Pharmacies, Pharmacists, Research Design, Feasibility Studies, Qualitative Research, New Zealand


Background: Pharmacists report to be providing patient-focused clinical services for which they receive no remuneration. Limited literature exists about unfunded services leading to difficulties in ascertaining an appropriate study design for such research.

Objective: This study aims to assess the appropriateness of a proposed study design before launching a nationwide study to investigate the provision of unfunded patient care services.

Methods: A multi-methods approach was utilised consisting of (1) continuous time motion study in community pharmacies (2) semi structured patient interviews (3) patient follow up (4) semi structured interviews with pharmacy owners/managers. All observations of unfunded patient care services were recorded, numerically coded and descriptively analysed. Semi structured interviews were audio recorded and transcribed verbatim. A semantic thematic analysis was carried out. Appropriateness of study design was dictated by the ability to characterise services and obtain patient perceptions.

Results: Ten pharmacies took part in the feasibility study, across the city of Dunedin, New Zealand, representing a range of different practice settings and demographics. Ten patients were interviewed and six responded to follow up. Both pharmacy and patient recruitment proved challenging due to concerns around disruption to workflow and patient privacy. A continuous observation time motion study was found to be appropriate as it minimises disruption to workflow with no additional work required from the pharmacy teams.

Conclusions: A continuous observation time motion study proved to be an appropriate method to investigate the provision of unfunded services on a national scale. The findings of the study suggest design changes such as length of observation time, increasing patient recruitment and additional patient questions to enhance the nationwide study.

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