The pharmacist's role in supporting informed self-care

One to One

When it comes to health care matters, one in three people actively talks to a pharmacist, according to a new Self-Care Survey from the National Council on Patient Information and Education (NCPIE) and Pfizer Consumer Healthcare. The majority of people surveyed agreed that OTCs allow individuals to address health issues more quickly, and 80% of respondents said they understand that appropriate use of OTCs is key to ensuring safety. In addition, 65% of respondents track health indicators such as weight and blood pressure, and 59% take OTC products to manage acute health conditions.

Pharmacists are key resources

“The pharmacy is not just for ‘picking up prescriptions,’” explained Ray Bullman, Executive Vice President of NCPIE. “Consumers are often unaware of the many patient care services that pharmacists can provide to address appropriate medication use through medication therapy management, prevention, and wellness services such as immunizations and smoking cessation.” 

NCPIE and Pfizer Consumer Healthcare developed the Self-Care Survey to understand how consumers make health decisions and their confidence in self-management. The survey examined the current perceptions, behaviors, and trends among 2,024 individuals in the United States, aged 18 years and older, and 516 primary care physicians in terms of managing health and wellness, and navigating today’s health care environment.

Self-care perceptions

The survey showed that most people are taking an interest in their own health beyond the physician’s office. Ninety-five percent of respondents agreed that self-care is strongly connected to taking personal responsibility for one’s health, and 79% defined self-care as actively seeking ways to treat, diagnose, or manage health issues or conditions on their own.

More than one-half of the respondents believe they could be making more decisions about their health and wellness, and 88% felt confident in their abilities to take responsibility for their health. 

The survey also explored how demographics and health conditions of respondents affected their responses, highlighting trends in self-management. For different scenarios related to OTC products, a consistently higher percentage of respondents in the 18–34 age group versus the 55 and older age group expressed a comfort level with OTCs as enabling better health management, providing time and cost savings, and improving access to treatment, according to NCPIE.

Helping patients take control

As the most accessible member of the health care team, pharmacists are trained to work with patients to answer questions and assess a patient’s condition or health needs to help determine if self-care is appropriate or if medical care/referral is needed. 

According to the survey, 60% of respondents tend to take an OTC before making an appointment with their doctor. By counseling patients about self-care and the appropriate use of OTCs, pharmacists are in a position to help patients feel better and save money by avoiding a trip to the physician. 

In addition to self-care and overall wellness, survey respondents were also asked about chronic disease management. For those with chronic conditions, there is a higher likelihood of spending physician visits focusing on disease management (35%) and treatment (32%) over prevention and maintenance (29%), suggesting that those with fewer treatment discussions may be using that time to talk about prevention/wellness instead (55%), according to NCPIE. 

Pharmacists are in an excellent position to counsel patients with chronic diseases about the importance of medication adherence, management of multiple medications, and beneficial lifestyle changes to help reduce hospital admissions and doctor visits.

NCPIE recently launched a dedicated self-care landing page on its website that includes the survey results; self-care resources for consumers such as a tip sheet on OTC usage; an interactive quiz; and insights from survey findings. The page also features survey core materials, including a fact sheet and two infographics; and a link to a webinar about the survey data and insights from health industry opinion leaders about the changing behaviors of consumers.

For more information, visit