Patients see their pharmacists as more dependable than their doctors, data shows.
A recent study found that more than half of Hispanic patients 50 years of age and older (61%), and 59% of African Americans the same ages view pharmacists as “supportive partners compared to doctors, particularly due to the pharmacists’ guidance when it comes to health and wellness.” CulturIntelTM published its “How to Leverage Doctors and Pharmacists in Marketing Plans to Yield Better Health Outcomes Study” on the trust matter after weeding through over one million online public domain conversations posted in the one-year span between April 2021 and April 2022. These conversations included “1.6 million public domain digital conversations about doctors and 84,000 public domain digital conversations about pharmacists,” the company reported.
While trust is an important factor in the relationship between any provider and a patient, pharmacies have gotten somewhat of a bad rap lately with all of the litigation being filed against these chains over claims they’ve helped to fuel the opioid epidemic. So, it’s interesting that the majority of minority patients in the stated age bracket continue to view pharmacists as trustworthy, and this begs that question – why?
The study reported that 67% of African American and Hispanic patients 50 years of age and older “collectively have a more positive sentiment toward pharmacists than doctors. The sentiment for both pharmacists and doctors are driven by a combination of soft skills like friendliness and support, as well as hard skills like effectiveness and expertise.”
And, while bias in the healthcare field continues to be a relevant issue, it seems pharmacists are not viewed this way.
“Interestingly enough, among Hispanic and Black people, pharmacists do not seem to suffer from the perception that they are being ‘biased,’ or that as pharmacists they are showing an unfair prejudice towards diverse communities,” said Caroline Brethanoux, chief strategy officer, CIEN+ and CulturIntel. “On the other hand, doctors are deemed biased in their interactions with diverse patients due to their personal experiences and historical injustice in the healthcare system. Within these communities, pharmacists could potentially become a gateway to foster more trust towards the healthcare system and drive better health outcomes as a result.”
The study found that “across all segments, 37% of the conversations in which patients are discussing doctors online are mostly driven by negativity compared to 22% of negative discussions about pharmacists.”
CulturIntel explained, “People are concerned about doctors being rude and disrespectful, but also incompetent and ineffective, suggesting a lack of trust in their abilities and their knowledge. Additionally, there are complaints about doctors’ biased behavior, especially among African Americans and Hispanic conversations which are not discussed for pharmacists,”
This is especially interesting because, in the opioid cases filed against pharmacies, many defendants have countered that doctors should be held accountable for suspicious orders. The pharmacies contend they are only fulfilling patients’ needs by filling the orders given to them that were written by physicians. Whether patients believe that their doctors are writing inappropriate prescriptions is something that hasn’t gotten a ton of attention, but it’s a curious question, nevertheless, given the trust patients put in their pharmacists and their apparent distrust of doctors.