Rationale, aims and objectives: As government-funded healthcare provisions are stretched to their limits, it is important that healthcare professionals provide evidence-based advice about minor ailments to facilitate people’s abilities to self-treat these conditions effectively and appropriately, given that self-care is one of the many components of person-centered healthcare. Unfortunately, despite the expanding over-the-counter (OTC) medicines market, there have been doubts cast about advice given by UK community pharmacists. Indeed, research conducted with pharmacists revealed that evidence of effectiveness was a secondary consideration when making decisions about OTC recommendations. We aimed to address these concerns and support decision-making by providing high quality, evidence-based, information about self-treatable conditions and over-the-counter consultations through a mobile phone app.
Method: There were 4 main stages, namely: (1) app development (content and design); (2) piloting (use-testing); (3) publication on Apple and Android stores and marketing of the app and, finally, (4) an evaluation (using analytical data obtained through the app content management system, feedback obtained via email, the star-rating and reviews posted on Google Play and Apple stores and comments obtained at events. Additionally, following ethical approval and piloting, we invited 100 people, representing different groups within the pharmacy profession in Northern Ireland, to complete an evaluation questionnaire.
Results: Since launching the project in February 2017, there have been over 5000 downloads, 68,453 sessions of use and the app has received a 5-star rating on both Apple and Google Play stores. Positive feedback has centred on the material being relevant and up-to-date, that it facilitates quick access to information in the workplace and is easy to navigate and that it is a good training tool. Future suggestions for improvement include expanding the number of conditions and providing self-assessment questions to help students prepare for professional examinations.Conclusions: The app appears to have had a positive impact on OTC consultations, but it is still evolving to ensure its usefulness in practice is maximised.