Pharmacists are increasingly providing public health services like the screening and monitoring for cardiovascular disease risk factors. Information on risk factors should be integrated into an assessment of absolute cardiovascular disease risk. Limited information is available on how pharmacists interpret test results and information related to cardiovascular disease risk factors.
To investigate the potential advice to clients featured in vignette case studies and reasoning of pharmacists in relation to multiple cardiovascular disease risk factors.
Three vignette case studies representing clients with varying degrees of absolute cardiovascular disease risk who requested blood pressure and cholesterol level testing and related advice were designed and distributed to practicing pharmacists. Vignettes contained all necessary information for absolute cardiovascular disease risk assessment. Two open ended questions asked what advice pharmacists would provide and what influenced their decisions to give specific advice. Responses were analysed using content analysis and assessed for appropriateness in relation to cardiovascular guidelines.
Replies of twenty-nine pharmacists were analysed. Advice to hypothetical clients was mainly appropriate when it concentrated on lifestyle modifications. Pharmacists' reasoning indicated a focus on individual risk factors in their decision making on advice rather than consideration of absolute cardiovascular disease risk, which resulted in inappropriate recommendations of referral and follow up.
Advice provided in relation to case studies and underlying clinical reasoning indicate potential knowledge gaps, anchoring bias and a framing effect in how pharmacists interpret multiple cardiovascular disease risk factors.