Drug advice provided in remote pharmacy services should be improved

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Online pharmacy services and other remote services are subject to the same legal requirements for providing advice as off-line pharmacies. In the autumn of 2022, Fimea conducted a mystery shopping study to evaluate advice on OTC products provided in remote pharmacy services and the service process. 

Mystery shoppers gathered information about drug advisory service

For the purpose of the study, a total of 60 mystery shoppers visited pharmacies: half of them purchased medicine for a persistent dry cough and the other half for itching in the genital area. Out of these, 30 visits were made to online pharmacy services, 15 to the Treet app and 15 to the Remomedi video pharmacy. 

Different remote services have their own strengths and development targets

Based on this study, the most important development target of remote services is improving the content and quality of advice on OTC products. In online services and other remote services, advice provided by pharmacy professionals is required during the entire visit, just like in off-line pharmacies. 

In online pharmacy services, timely drug advice is a key development target because more than half of the customers received advice only after purchasing a product. In the chat service of the Treet app, the need for and suitability of medication was established well, but there were shortcomings in the advice provided on the use of the medicine. Out of the studied services, the Remomedi video pharmacy provided the most comprehensive advice on drugs but contacting the pharmacy was challenging. 

Drug advisory services that support the appropriate use of pharmaceuticals should be the primary development target of remote services. On the other hand, remote services deliver drugs rapidly: the majority of customers received the ordered drugs within 24 hours.

Active communication on development targets

We actively communicated about the results and development targets identified in the mystery shopping study. In addition to regular online communication, we focused on social media presence by highlighting the key results in Fimea’s social media channels for several weeks.  

The key results were presented and discussed in a morning webinar for pharmacy owners. The webinar also focused on solutions for the development of drug advise in remote pharmacy services. The results of the study were also discussed in the pharmacy division under the Roadmap for pharmaceutical matters of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. The results were also presented in events aimed at key pharmaceutical organisations and other stakeholder groups. 

Advisory services emphasised in supervision

Fimea oversees drug advisory services as part of pharmacy supervision. The results have been used to target and develop supervision. Supervision will focus more on drug advisory services provided by pharmacies which must support the appropriate use of drugs.

Fimea will continue to use mystery shopping. It allows us to monitor the implementation of the drug advisory service as defined in the Medicines Act and helps us to gather information about the quality and development targets of advisory services on a national level.