BACKGROUND: The importance of email as a mode of communication between medication users and pharmacists is likely to increase. However, little is known about the email medication counseling practices of community pharmacies. OBJECTIVE: To determine the prevalence of email medication counseling services in rinland and to assess the accuracy and comprehensiveness of responses by pharmacies providing the opportunity for email medication counseling to inquiries related to use of antidepressants. METHODS: An inventory was made of all Finnish community pharmacies that provided the opportunity for email medication counseling. Data related to the accuracy and comprehensiveness of responses were collected, using a virtual pseudo-customer method with 3 scenarios related to common concerns of patients on antidepressants. Two inquiries were emailed to each pharmacy that provided the opportunity for email medication counseling in January and February 2005. The responses were content analyzed by 2 researchers, using a prestructured scoring system. RESULTS: Almost one-third (30%, n = 182) of Finnish community pharmacies maintained a working Web site, and 94% of those provided the opportunity for email medication counseling. An online "ask-the-pharmacist" service was offered by 13% (n = 23) of the pharmacies with a Web site. Pharmacies responded to 54% of the email inquiries sent by the virtual pseudo-customers. The response rate and the content score ratio between mean and maximum scores varied among the scenarios. The content score ratio was highest for the scenarios concerning the adverse effects of fluoxetine (0.53, n = 55) and interactions with mirtazapine (0.52, n = 63) and lowest for the scenario related to sexual dysfunction and weight gain associated with citalopram (0.38, n = 52). CONCLUSIONS: Community pharmacies are potential providers of email medication counseling services. However, more attention should be directed to responding to consumer inquiries and to the content of these responses.
- Community pharmacy services
- Drug information services