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Fam Pract. 2009 Dec;26(6):532-42. doi: 10.1093/fampra/cmp061. Epub 2009 Oct 14.

Simulated patient visits with immediate feedback to improve the supply of over-the-counter medicines: a feasibility study.

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Centre of Academic Primary Care, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen AB25 2AY, UK.



The supply of over-the-counter (OTC) medicines from community pharmacies should be safe and effective, but there is evidence that appropriate practice is not always achieved. The primary objective of this study was to assess the acceptability of simulated patient (SP) visits combined with feedback, delivered by either SPs or pharmacy educators (PEs), as a method for improving the supply of OTC medicines in community pharmacies.


This feasibility study used a randomized controlled trial design where participating pharmacies were randomized into two groups (SP or PE, feedback). SP visits were audiotaped and questionnaire data collected from participants post-intervention. Each pharmacy received three covert visits from SPs. Feedback was provided immediately after the first and second visits. Data were collected on information gathering and advice provision. The visits were assessed for minimum standards of practice and appropriateness of outcome.


Twenty-two pharmacists and 34 medicine counter assistants (MCAs) from 20 community pharmacies in Grampian, Scotland, participated. Sixty SP visits were completed (three per pharmacy) and were well received, particularly by the pharmacists. Similar results were shown across both study groups in terms of information gathering and information/advice provision during consultations. Few SP consultations achieved the minimum standard of practice although most resulted in an appropriate outcome.


SP visits with feedback were acceptable to pharmacists as a method of improving the quality of consultations for OTC medicines, irrespective of the person giving feedback (SP or PE). The process by which pharmacists and their staff derived their recommendations, in terms of information gathering, could be improved. A large-scale study is needed to assess the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of SP visits with feedback.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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