Background: Use of social media and Internet for health information sharing is expanding among patients, physicians, and other health care professionals. Research on professional use of social media by community pharmacists is limited.
Objectives: 1) To determine the extent to which Texas (U.S. state) independent community pharmacists use text messaging, email, Facebook, Twitter, and/or other information technology for professional communication with patients and health care professionals and identify the perceptions of Texas independent community pharmacists toward such usage; 2) to determine the extent to which Texas independent community pharmacists develop and employ their pharmacy websites to provide drug information and patient care services.
Methods: A 25-item survey with questions addressing the objectives of the study as well as basic demographic questions (gender, age, and type of pharmacy degree) was mailed to a random sample of 1196 independent community pharmacists in Texas in January 2012.
Results: The study response rate was 23.7%, with 284 usable questionnaires returned. The majority of respondents reported that Internet access is available at their pharmacies (98% (278)), and 91% (258) are familiar with the term 'social media'. To communicate with health care professionals, 56% (n = 160) of respondents use email, 34% (n = 97) use text messages and 5% (n = 14) use Facebook. To communicate with patients, 36% (n = 102) of respondents use email, 30% (n = 86) use text messages and 7% (n = 19) use Facebook. The perceptions of pharmacists who communicate with patients using electronic tools about information related to drug therapy once a month or more frequently were more positive than those of pharmacists who never or hardly ever communicate with patients via electronic tools about drug therapy (P < 0.05). Over 50% of independent pharmacists reported maintaining a pharmacy website.
Conclusions: This study is the first U.S. statewide assessment of the use of electronic communication and social media for professional pharmacist's communications and perceptions toward the use of social media in patient-pharmacist communications among independent community pharmacists in Texas. Future studies conducted in other states as well as nationwide will contribute to a better understanding of the use of electronic communication, Internet, and social media in the daily professional activities of independent community pharmacists.
Keywords: Community pharmacy; Internet; Pharmacist e-communication; Social media; e-Health communication.
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