International Journal of Clinical Pharmacy

, Volume 39, Issue 2, pp 364–372 | Cite as

Do pharmacists use social media for patient care?

  • Arcelio Benetoli
  • Timothy F. Chen
  • Marion Schaefer
  • Betty Chaar
  • Parisa AslaniEmail author
Research Article


Background Social media are frequently used by consumers and healthcare professionals. However, it is not clear how pharmacists use social media as part of their daily professional practice. Objective This study investigated the role social media play in pharmacy practice, particularly in patient care and how pharmacists interact online with patients and laypeople. Setting Face-to-face, telephone, or Skype interviews with practising pharmacists (n = 31) from nine countries. Method In-depth semi-structured interviews; audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim, and thematically analysed. Main outcome measure Two themes related to the use of social media for patient care: social media and pharmacy practice, and pharmacists’ online interactions with customers and the public. Results Most participants were community pharmacists. They did not provide individualized services to consumers via social media, despite most of them working in a pharmacy with a Facebook page. No participant “friended” consumers on Facebook as it was perceived to blur the boundary between professional and personal relationships. However, they occasionally provided advice and general health information on social media to friends and followers, and more commonly corrected misleading health information spread on Facebook. Short YouTube videos were used to support patient counselling in community pharmacy. Conclusions Participants recognized the potential social media has for health. However, its use to support patient care and deliver pharmacy services was very incipient. Pharmacists as medicine experts are well equipped to contribute to improvements in social media medicines-related information, learn from consumers’ online activities, and design new ways of delivering care to communities and individuals.


Facebook Patient care Pharmacists Pharmacy Social media YouTube 



We wish to thank all participants who provided their time, valuable experiences and opinions, as well as the assistance of Ms Tara Hehir. This study received financial support from the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP). Arcelio Benetoli holds a scholarship from the Brazilian Government/National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) “Science Without Borders” Program.



Conflicts of interest

The authors declare no potential conflicts of interest with respect to research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

Supplementary material

11096_2017_444_MOESM1_ESM.docx (16 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 16 kb)
11096_2017_444_MOESM2_ESM.docx (14 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (DOCX 13 kb)


  1. 1.
    Eysenbach G. What is e-health? J Med Internet Res. 2001;3(2):E20.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Ward MM, Jaana M, Natafgi N. Systematic review of telemedicine applications in emergency rooms. Int J Med Inform. 2015;84(9):601–16.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Armfield NR, Bradford M, Bradford NK. The clinical use of Skype-For which patients, with which problems and in which settings? A snapshot review of the literature. Int J Med Inform. 2015;84(10):737–42.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Kaplan MA, Haenlein M. Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of Social Media. Bus Horiz. 2010;53:59–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Albarran AB. The social media industries. New York: Routledge; 2013.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Moorhead SA, Hazlett DE, Harrison L, Carroll JK, Irwin A, Hoving C. A new dimension of health care: systematic review of the uses, benefits, and limitations of social media for health communication. J Med Internet Res. 2013;15(4):1438–8871.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    van der Eijk M, Faber MJ, Aarts JW, Kremer JA, Munneke M, Bloem BR. Using online health communities to deliver patient-centered care to people with chronic conditions. J Med Internet Res. 2013;15(6):e115.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Helve O. A medical consultation service on facebook: descriptive analysis of questions answered. J Med Internet Res. 2014;16(9):e202.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Benetoli A, Chen TF, Spagnardi S, Beer T, Aslani P. Provision of a medicines information service to consumers on Facebook: an Australian case study. J Med Internet Res. 2015;17(11):e265.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Bosslet GT, Torke AM, Hickman SE, Terry CL, Helft PR. The patient-doctor relationship and online social networks: results of a national survey. J Gen Intern Med. 2011;26(10):1168–74.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    McGowan BS, Wasko M, Vartabedian BS, Miller RS, Freiherr DD, Abdolrasulnia M. Understanding the factors that influence the adoption and meaningful use of social media by physicians to share medical information. J Med Internet Res. 2012;14(5):e117.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Benetoli A, Chen TF, Aslani P. The use of social media in pharmacy practice and education. Res Social Adm Pharm. 2015;11(1):1–46.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Alkhateeb FM, Clauson KA, Latif DA. Pharmacist use of social media. Int J Pharm Pract. 2011;19(2):140–2.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Kukreja P, Heck Sheehan A, Riggins J. Use of social media by pharmacy preceptors. Am J Pharm Educ. 2011;75(9):176.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Morse JM. The significance of saturation. Qual Health Res. 1995;5(2):147–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Bazeley P. Qualitative data analysis: practical strategies. London: SAGE; 2013.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Antheunis ML, Tates K, Nieboer TE. Patients’ and health professionals’ use of social media in health care: motives, barriers and expectations. Patient Educ Couns. 2013;92(3):426–31.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Benetoli A, Chen TF, Schaefer M, Chaar B, Aslani P. Pharmacists’ perceptions of professionalism on social networking sites. Res Social Adm Pharm. 2016. doi: 10.1016/j.sapharm.2016.05.044.
  19. 19.
    Pharmacy Council of New Zealand. Social Media and the Pharmacy Profession: a practical guide to online professionalism for pharmacists and pharmacy students. 2013. Accessed 09 Oct 2013.
  20. 20.
    American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. ASHP statement on use of social media by pharmacy professionals: developed through the ASHP pharmacy student forum and the ASHP section of pharmacy informatics and technology and approved by the ASHP Board of Directors on April 13, 2012, and by the ASHP House of Delegates on June 10, 2012. Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2012;69(23):2095–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Pharmaceutical Society of Australia. Guidance on using the Internet and social media. 2013. Accessed 09 Oct 2013.
  22. 22.
    LeRouge CM, Garfield MJ, Hevner AR. Patient perspectives of telemedicine quality. Patient Prefer Adherence. 2015;9:25.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Hamrosi KK, Raynor DK, Aslani P. Enhancing provision of written medicine information in Australia: pharmacist, general practitioner and consumer perceptions of the barriers and facilitators. BMC Health Serv Res. 2014;14(183):1472–6963.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Lupiáñez-Villanueva F, Ángel Mayer M, Torrent J. Opportunities and challenges of Web 2.0 within the health care systems: an empirical exploration. Inform Health Soc Care. 2009;34(3):117–26.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Wilson K, Keelan J. Social media and the empowering of opponents of medical technologies: the case of anti-vaccinationism. J Med Internet Res. 2013;15(5):e103.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Royal Pharmaceutical Society. Social media guidance: top social media best tips for pharmacists. 2013. Accessed 09 Oct 2013.
  27. 27.
    Ulbrich T, Metzger AH, Finley Sobota K, McAuley JW. Evaluating the online networking relationships between preceptors and pharmacy students. Curr Pharm Teach Learn. 2013;5(4):256–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Metzger AH, Finley KN, Ulbrich TR, McAuley JW. Pharmacy faculty members’ perspectives on the student/faculty relationship in online social networks. Am J Pharm Educ. 2010;74(10):188.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Bongartz J, Vang C, Havrda D, Fravel M, McDanel D, Farris KB. Student pharmacist, pharmacy resident, and graduate student perceptions of social interactions with faculty members. Am J Pharm Educ. 2011;75(9):180.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Cain J, Scott DR, Tiemeier AM, Akers P, Metzger AH. Social media use by pharmacy faculty: student friending, e-professionalism, and professional use. Curr Pharm Teach Learn. 2013;5(1):2–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Schneider EF, Jones MC, Farris KB, Havrda D, Jackson KC 2nd, Hamrick TS. Faculty perceptions of appropriate faculty behaviors in social interactions with student pharmacists. Am J Pharm Educ. 2011;75(4):70.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Cain J, Scott DR, Akers P. Pharmacy students’ Facebook activity and opinions regarding accountability and e-professionalism. Am J Pharm Educ. 2009;73(6):104.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Benetoli A, Chen TF, Schaefer M, Chaar B, Aslani P. Professional use of social media by pharmacists: a qualitative study. J Med Internet Res. 2016;18(9):e258.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Jain SH. Practicing medicine in the age of Facebook. N Engl J Med. 2009;361(7):649–51.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Shcherbakova N, Shepherd M. Community pharmacists, Internet and social media: an empirical investigation. Res Social Adm Pharm. 2013;4(13):00248–9.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Greenwood E. Attributes of a profession. Soc Work. 1957;2(3):45–55.Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    Cain J, Romanelli F. E-professionalism: a new paradigm for a digital age. Curr Pharm Teach Learn. 2009;1(2):66–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Hibberd S. Social media: getting results. In: Retail pharmacy. 2014. p. 28.Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Phillpott L. Get social? Aust J Pharm. 2014;95:18–20.Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Lober WB, Flowers JL. Consumer empowerment in health care amid the internet and social media. Semin Oncol Nurs. 2011;27(3):169–82.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Pharmacy, Pharmacy and Bank Building A15The University of SydneySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Pharmaceutical SciencesState University of Ponta GrossaPonta GrossaBrazil
  3. 3.Charité University Medicine BerlinBerlinGermany

Personalised recommendations