Evaluation of urban-rural differences in pharmacy practice needs in Maine with the MaPPNA

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Sarah L. Martin
Robert P. Baker
Brian J. Piper


Community Pharmacy Services, Professional Practice, Rural Health, Rural Population, Health Services Needs and Demand, Maine


Background: Maine is a rural state with an aging population located in the northeastern United States. Pharmacists play an important role in serving the public’s health as they are often the most available point-of-contact within a community.

Objective: To assess the current pharmacy practice needs as viewed by licensed pharmacists across our rural state, and to distinguish issues that are unique to rural pharmacy practice.

Methods: An online survey was sent to all licensed pharmacists in the state in the fall of 2014 (n=1,262) to assess their pharmacy practice needs, and specify an rural-specific needs, within the categories of (1) opioid misuse, abuse, and diversion, (2) challenges associated with access to healthcare, (3) poly-pharmacy use, (4) meeting the needs of special populations, (5) lack of antibiotic stewardship, and (6) resources, such as staffing.

Results: The response rate was 22.1 % (n=279). We found the most agreed upon issue facing pharmacists’ in Maine is opioid use, misuse and diversion, followed closely by shortages in staffing. We also learned that pharmacists’ view pharmaceutical care for older adults, those with low health literacy, and those with mental disabilities more time-consuming. Some urban-rural differences were discovered in with regard to the pharmacists’ views; such as the magnitude of the distance barrier, and limited transportation options available to rural residents. Issues related to polypharmacy were viewed as more problematic by pharmacists practicing in urban versus rural sites.

Conclusions: Pharmaceutical care in Maine must focus on meeting the needs of the elderly, those with disabilities, and those with limited health literacy. As with the rest of the nation, opioids challenge pharmacy practice in a variety of ways. These findings clarify areas that present opportunities for pharmacists to focus more specifically on Maine’s largely rural population.


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