Provision of primary care to patients with chronic cough in the community pharmacy setting

Carl Schneider, Alan Everett, Elizabeth Geelhoed, Peter Kendall, Kevin Murray, Peter Garnett, Mariam Salama, Rhonda Clifford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Community pharmacies are at the forefront of primary care providers and have an important role in the referral of patients to a medical practitioner for review when necessary. Chronic cough is a common disorder in the community and requires medical assessment. The proficiency of community pharmacy staff to refer patients with chronic cough is currently unknown.

OBJECTIVE: To assess the ability of community pharmacy staff to recognize and medically refer patients with a chronic nonproductive cough.

METHODS: Following ethics approval, a simulated patient study of 156 community pharmacies in Perth, Western Australia, was conducted over a 3-month period. Simulated patients presented to the pharmacy requesting treatment for a cough. The simulated patient required a referral based on a designated scenario. Demographic details, assessment questions, and advice provided were recorded by the simulated patient immediately postvisit. A logistic regression analysis was performed, with referral for medical assessment as the dependent variable.

RESULTS: Of the 155 community pharmacies included in the analysis, 38% provided appropriate medical referral. Cough suppressants were provided as therapy in 72% of all visits. Predictors of medical referral were assessment of symptom duration, medical history, current medications being taken, frequency of reliever use, and the position of the pharmacy staff member conducting the consultation. A third of community pharmacies provided appropriate primary care by recommending medical referral advice to patients with chronic cough. The majority of pharmacy staff members acquired information from the patient that suggested a need for medical referral, yet did not provide referral advice.

CONCLUSIONS: Appropriate medical referral is more likely when adequate assessment is undertaken and when a pharmacist is directly involved in the consultation. This highlights the need for pharmacies to ensure that processes are in place for patients to access the pharmacist.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)402-408
Number of pages7
JournalAnnals of Pharmacotherapy
Issue number3
Early online date15 Feb 2011
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2011


  • asthma
  • cough
  • counseling
  • pharmacy
  • simulated patient


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