Challenges in the management of community pharmacies in Malaysia
Background: The provision of professional pharmacy services by community pharmacists continues to be limited, particularly in low and middle income countries. It was postulated that multiple management challenges faced by community pharmacists contribute to this situation.
Objective: The primary aim of the research was to determine the challenges faced in the management of community pharmacies in Sarawak (the largest state in Malaysia), and practical strategies to cope and overcome the challenges.
Methods: Semi-structured interviews were carried out with community pharmacists practising in Sarawak. Purposive and snowball sampling were employed to ensure a diverse group of informants. The interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim, with the resultant data analysed using thematic analysis. Data collection, coding, interpretation were carried out iteratively until theoretical saturation.
Results: Twenty respondents from different demographic characteristics were recruited. Six major themes were identified. Management challenges faced by community pharmacists traverse five major domains: market competition, legislative issues, customers’ knowledge and expectations, macroeconomic impacts and operational challenges. Most of these challenges require government intervention to be resolved. In the meantime, improving customer service and expanding the range of professional services were seen as the most viable strategies to cope with existing challenges. The main concern is that current legislative and economic landscape may hinder these strategies. Enactment of dispensing separation and more protective measures against market competition were suggested to alleviate the challenges faced.
Conclusion: Numerous management challenges faced by community pharmacists that distract them from delivering professional pharmacy services have been highlighted. Urgent affirmative actions by the government are warranted in supporting community pharmacists to realise and maximise their potentials.
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