Do pharmacy practice standards effectively describe behaviour? Reviewing practice standards using a behavioural specificity framework

Deanna Mill, Amy Page, Jacinta Johnson, Kenneth Lee, Sandra M. Salter, Liza Seubert, Rhonda Clifford, Danielle D’Lima

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Guidelines and practice standards exist to communicate the conduct and behaviour expected of health care professionals and ensure consistent quality practice. It is important that they describe behaviours explicitly so they can be interpreted, enacted and measured with ease. The AACTT framework specifies behaviour in terms of the: Action to be performed, Actor who performs the action, Context where the action occurs, Target who the action is performed with/for and Time when the action is performed (AACTT). It provides the most up to date framework for specifying behaviours and is particularly relevant to complex behavioural problems that involve sequences of behaviours performed by different people. Behavioural specificity within pharmacy practice standards has not been explored. 

Aim: To determine if behaviours described in the Professional Practice Standards for Australian Pharmacists specify Action, Actor, Context, Target and Time. Methods: Two researchers independently reviewed the scope and structure of the practice standards and one extracted action statements (behaviours) verbatim. Through an iterative process, the researchers modified and developed the existing AACTT definitions to operationalise them for application to review of the action statements in the practice standards. The operational definitions, decision criteria and curated examples were combined in a codebook. The definitions were consistently applied through a directed content analysis approach to evaluate all extracted action statements by one researcher. For consistency 20% was independently checked for agreement by a second researcher. 

Results: A novel codebook to apply AACTT criteria to evaluate practice standards was developed. Application of this codebook identified 768 independent behaviours. Of these, 300 (39%) described at least one discrete observable action, none specified an actor, 25 (3%) specified context, 131 (17%) specified target and 88 (11%) specified time. 

Conclusion(s): The behaviours detailed in practice standards for Australian pharmacists do not consistently specify behaviours in terms of Action, Actor, Context, Target and Time. Developers in the pharmacy profession, and beyond, should consider the behavioural specificity of their documents to improve interpretability, usability and adherence to the behaviours detailed. This also has implications for the development and evaluation of interventions to change such behaviours and improve quality of care.

Original languageEnglish
Article number71
Number of pages25
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


  • Behavioural specification
  • Pharmacist
  • Practice standards
  • Professional behaviour

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