Preferences to visit general practitioner or community pharmacists for minor ailments: A Discrete Choice Experiment

Lead Research Organisation: University of Glamorgan
Department Name: Faculty of Health Sport and Science


The community pharmacist has recently been promoted as a source of advice and support to help people deal with minor ailments. Research shows that CPs can successfully deal with minor ailments. Yet, many users continue to consult GPs about minor ailments. We do not understand why many people make this choice. This research will identify the factors important to people in deciding whether to visit the CP or the GP. A technique called Discrete Choice Experiment will be used to learn about this. This will allow us to get a better picture of why patients seek CP advice as opposed to GP advice. This knowledge will help us to design future services to deal with minor illness.

Technical Summary

Aim: To study the relative weights attached to the factors impacting patients‘ preferences in their decision to consult general practitioners and community pharmacists in the management of minor ailments.
Relevance of the study: The role of community pharmacists have been extended in recent years. A key extension has been encouraging community pharmacists (CPs) to offer, and users to seek, advice on minor ailments before consulting general practitioners (GPs). Research indicates that minor ailment workload can be transferred successfully to community pharmacists. Yet, many users continue to seek advice directly from GPs. More detailed exploration of both patient‘s and community‘s values in decision making processes regarding choice of users to consult would inform and sensitise efforts to design policy and incentives to optimise primary care skill mix and improve efficiency in the provision of minor ailment care to patients in primary care settings.
Scientific objectives:
To develop and apply discrete choice experiment techniques (DCE) to: assess and weight the utility bearing attributes impacting patients‘ preferences to consult GPs and/or CPs in the management of minor ailment episodes; to ascertain the extent to which differences across patients‘ choice to visits GPs or CPs is attributable to actual difference in preferences as opposed to study design and to undertake in-depth interviews with a sub-sample of the cohort to explore their decision making processes.
Research plan: A multidisciplinary team from academic departments will be created to steer this research: seek ethical approval; design the DCE questionnaire; perform the large-scale survey; and complete a qualitative cognitive de-briefing on the sub-sample.
Collaborators: I will collaborate with a research team comprised of individuals of national and international repute. Supervision will be provided by Professor Cohen, a leading health economist in Wales and Dr Myles, a health economistous MRC and Harkness Fellow with research experience in related areas. Advisors to the project include Professor Ryan and Professor Louviere, leading experts in DCE methodology and its application in health. Dr Hood will provide statistical support while Dr Coast will advice the qualitative research. Finally, Dr Hughes will contribute as pharmacist trained in health economics.
Design and methodology: Design of DCE questionnaires, large-scale survey and qualitative study.
Scientific opportunities: This study seeks to investigate, both qualitatively and quantitatively, the factors that impact patient preferences and decision- making processes regarding choice of primary care professional to consult in the management of minor ailments. This project will contribute to disciplinary, methodological and policy understanding of these processes, opening up several avenues for future research.


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Description Welsh Health Economist Group 
Form Of Engagement Activity Scientific meeting (conference/symposium etc.)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation Paper Presentation
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact the WHEG ocnference is held twice a year and it normally takes place in Bangor, Swansea or Cardiff.

The audience included mainly academics and two research proposal where submitted as result of this dissemination exercise.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity Pre-2006,2006,2007,2008,2009,2010,2011,2012