How do patients develop trust in community pharmacists?

Res Social Adm Pharm. 2021 May;17(5):911-920. doi: 10.1016/j.sapharm.2020.07.023. Epub 2020 Aug 10.


Background: Pharmacists frequently self-describe as "the most trusted health care professional" in society. Beyond the rhetoric of such self-promoting statements, there is little empirical evidence regarding how trust between pharmacists and patients is formed, nurtured, and sustained.

Objectives: This exploratory qualitative study in Ontario, Canada was undertaken in early 2020 to characterize trust-enhancing factors in community pharmacy practice.

Methods: Recruitment posters/handouts in purposively-selected pharmacies using a convenience sampling of people collecting prescriptions was used to recruit 28 patient-participants. Inclusion criteria included a minimum of six conversations with a pharmacist regarding health/medication use in the previous 12 months. A semi-structured interview protocol was used to elicit descriptions from patients regarding how experiences with community pharmacists shaped or influenced trust formation in both individual pharmacists and the profession as a whole.

Results: A total of 28 patients were interviewed for this study. Five trust-enhancing factors were identified: i) availability; ii) affability; iii) acknowledgement; iv) respect; and v) interpersonal chemistry. Within each factor, sub-factors or facets were also identified that focused on specific behaviours of community pharmacists that helped enhance trust. This study suggests that trust-enhancing factors include a series of interpersonal communication behaviours and skills that are within the control of pharmacists; leveraging these behaviours and skills in a more consistent and effective manner may support more trusting relationships between pharmacists and patients.

Conclusions: For pharmacists to truly live up to the moniker of "most trusted health care professional" it is important to better understand how trust is built and sustained, and to consider opportunities to focus on specific trust-enhancing behaviours that ultimately support better patient care and outcomes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Community Pharmacy Services*
  • Humans
  • Ontario
  • Pharmacists*
  • Professional Role
  • Trust