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Unique study about self-care advice in minor illness

Published: 5 October 2015

Persons that contact the Swedish Healthcare Direct 1177 for conditions that do not require medical care will during November 2015 be randomly offered to be connected to a pharmacy telephone helpline. The aim is to explore if this might improve patient satisfaction and symptom resolution, leading to a reduction of health care. The study is a collaboration between Lulea University of Technology, the Swedish Healthcare Direct 1177 and the pharmaceutical company Apoteket AB.

– In community pharmacies there are a lot of competence and a broad range of products that offer symptom relief. It is time to include community pharmacies in the health care chain, says Silje Gustafsson, PhD student in the department of nursing sciences at Luleå University of Technology.  

Liberates resources

Today the number of doctor’s visits in primary care services is increasing throughout Europe, and many consult with symptoms of minor illnesses such as common colds, sore throat and minor infectious conditions.

According to earlier studies, approxiamtely 13 percent of all doctor’s visits in the primary care could have been treated at pharmacy level. Source; Journal "Family Practice"

Only in the Norrbotten county this implies about 39 000 doctor’s visits to a cost of approximately  73 000 000 SEK annually.

– It is a lot of money, and in addition we have a severe deficiency of doctors in our county. Treating condition at the right level of care liberates competence and resources to persons with severe illness, says Silje Gustafsson.

Self-care advice in pharmacies

The study will take place in November. Persons contacting the SHD 1177 for conditions that do not require medical care will be randomly selected into two groups. One group will be offered connection to the pharmacy telephone helpline for additional self-care advice after the consultation with the SHD nurse whereas the other group will receive care as usual. The two groups will then be compared.

– We will compare patient satisfaction and if there was any differences between the groups regarding symptom resolution, and if the need to consult with a doctor decreased after self-care advice from the pharmacists, says Silje Gustafsson.

Curiosity as to the results

This study is the first of its kind and has already attracted interest internationally. In the UK, pharmacists have been a part of the national telephone help advisory service for several years, but the effects have never been evaluated. Studies from the UK have indicated that approximately 30-40 percent of doctor’s visits in the Primary Care are for minor illnesses, and in the UK they have been working for a long time to increase self-care and decrease the health care services interventions for minor illness. So here there is a great deal of curiosity as to the study’s results.  

Even the Swedish Pharmacy Association is positive to the study. They have since long aimed to become a natural part of the health care chain where their competence and knowledge about medication and medicines are used to a greater extent, especially when it comes to self-care for minor illness.

In the media:

The news has been published in approximately 50 different media over the country. Some examples are listed below:


Silje Gustafsson

Silje Gustafsson, Senior Lecturer

Phone: +46 (0)920 492313
Organisation: Nursing, Division of Nursing and Medical Technology, Department of Health Sciences