International Journal of Clinical Pharmacy

, Volume 40, Issue 2, pp 464–473 | Cite as

Doctor–pharmacist communication in hospitals: strategies, perceptions, limitations and opportunities

  • Peter Coomber
  • Alexandra Clavarino
  • Emma Ballard
  • Karen LuetschEmail author
Research Article


Background Effective communication between health professionals contributes to safe and efficient patient care, whereas communication breakdown can lead to adverse patient outcomes and increased healthcare expenditure. Information on how pharmacists and doctors communicate with each other in hospitals is limited. Objective To explore usage and perceptions of communication methods by doctors and pharmacists in hospital settings. Setting Four public hospitals in Australia. Method A mixed method study utilising a pilot questionnaire, semi-structured interviews, and electronic survey was designed. Frequentist statistics and logistic regression were used to analyse survey data. Thematic analysis was conducted to evaluate semi-structured interview data and free-text survey comments. Main outcome measures: Frequency of use of communication methods, perceptions of the convenience, time taken to use, accuracy and effectiveness of each method. Results More than 95% of doctors and pharmacists combined used face-to-face and phone calls to communicate with each other, 70% used a medication management plan, and 62% used progress notes. A preference for oral communication was confirmed with the expressed need for building professional rapport and receiving responses. Perceptions regarding effectiveness of oral communication methods were related to perceptions of their convenience and accuracy. Professional groups described differences in perceived ownership of various modes of communication. Conclusions Preferences for oral communication create potential issues with recall and comprehension. Integrating oral communication features into written communication methods, e.g. creating responses, conversations, building rapport, may change doctors’ and pharmacists’ perceptions of effectiveness. Communication receipt and response functionality in electronic medication and record management systems may improve communication.


Accuracy Australia Communication methods Convenience Doctor Effectiveness Hospital Pharmacist Relationship 



The Research Team acknowledge and thank Dr Rachel Howard, the Medical Education Officers and Pharmacy Department managers of Metro North Hospital Health Service hospitals, and the participants for their support.


No funding was received.

Conflicts of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

11096_2018_592_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (353 kb)
Supplementary file 1: Online questionnaire (PDF 353 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of QueenslandWoolloongabbaAustralia
  2. 2.QIMR Berghofer Medical Research InstituteHerstonAustralia

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