Self-perceived minor ailments might conceal other health conditions if patients are not appropriately assisted by health care professionals. The aim of the study was to evaluate the patient-related outcomes of a community pharmacy Minor Ailment Service (MAS) compared to usual pharmacist care (UC).
A cluster randomised controlled trial was conducted over six months in community pharmacy in the province of Valencia (Spain). Patients seeking care or requesting a product for a minor ailments considered in the study (dermatological problems, gastrointestinal disturbance, pain and upper respiratory tract related symptoms) were included. The intervention consisted of a standardised pharmacist-patient consultation guided by a web-based program using co-developed management protocols and patients’ educational material. Patients were followed up by phone ten days later. Primary clinical outcomes were appropriate medical referral and modification of direct product request. Secondary outcomes were symptom resolution and reconsultation rates.
A total of 808 patients (323 MAS and 485 UC) were recruited in 27 pharmacies of 21 municipalities. Patients visiting MAS pharmacies had higher odds for being referred to a physician (OR = 2.343, CI95% = [1.146–4.792]) and higher reconsultation rates (OR = 1.833, CI95% = [1.151–2.919]) compared to UC. No significant differences between groups were observed for modification of direct product request and symptom resolution.
The use of management protocols through the MAS strengthened the identification of referral criteria such as red flags in patients suffering minor ailments. These patients with symptoms of minor ailments possibly due to more severe illness were to be referred and evaluated by physicians. Results reinforce that MAS increases safety for those patients consulting in community pharmacy for minor ailments.