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Hospital pharmacists overworked, provide little advice: survey

Hospital pharmacists overworked, provide little advice: survey

Taipei, June 13 (CNA) Pharmacists working in Taiwan hospitals tend to have too heavy a workload, which leaves them little time to advise patients, according to the results of a survey released Saturday by the Taiwan Healthcare Reform Foundation.
The survey, conducted from Jan. 19-21 at 20 medical centers around Taiwan, found that, on average, the pharmacists served 450 patients per day during the three-day period leading up to the Lunar New Year holiday this year.
The results revealed that more than one quarter of pharmacists are so busy that they cannot provide any verbal information to patients.
Among those who could do so, 80 percent only spoke if the patients asked them questions, with the conversations averaging just 35 seconds, the results showed.
Also, 6.3 percent of pharmacists do not verify the identities of patients before distributing medicines to them, which could increase the chances of mistakes, the poll found.
Meanwhile, approximately 60 percent of the patients surveyed thought that pharmacists should explain to them matters such as possible side effects of the medicines and whether there is likely to be any interaction with other drugs or food. However, only about one quarter of pharmacists offer such information verbally to patients, the survey showed.
Kao Yea-huei, an associate professor at National Cheng Kung University's Institute of Clinical Pharmacy, estimated that it takes at least 7 minutes and 32 seconds for a pharmacist to fill a single prescription and that it would take another two minutes and nine seconds to give verbal instructions on use of the drugs.
Therefore, the maximum number of prescriptions handled by each pharmacist should be 64 per day, Kao suggested.
However, a Department of Health estimate in 2004 showed that on average, pharmacists in Taiwan completed one prescription in 2.9 minutes, with each pharmacist handling up to 165 prescriptions per day.
The number was significantly higher than the maximum limit of 30 prescriptions per day set by the United States and 40 set by Japan, the foundation said.
Taiwan's Bureau of National Health Insurance currently sets a limit of 100 prescriptions per day.
According to the foundation, hospitals in Taiwan have not paid attention to the quality of service provided by their pharmacists because this aspect is not part of the evaluation criteria for hospitals.
(By Y.F. Low)