gms | German Medical Science

10. Jahrestagung der GAA Gesellschaft für Arzneimittelforschung und Arzneimittelepidemiologie

16. bis 17.10.2003, Bonn

The pseudo customer methodology as an educational tool in German community pharmacies

Beratungsqualität in öffentlichen Apotheken: Coaching durch Pseudo-Customer

Meeting Abstract

Search Medline for

  • C. Eickhoff - Center for Drug Information and Pharmacy Practice Federal Union of German Associations of Pharmacists (ABDA), Jaegerstrasse 49/50, 10117 Berlin
  • K. Berger - Center for Drug Information and Pharmacy Practice Federal Union of German Associations of Pharmacists (ABDA), Jaegerstrasse 49/50, 10117 Berlin
  • corresponding author Martin Schulz - Center for Drug Information and Pharmacy Practice Federal Union of German Associations of Pharmacists (ABDA), Jaegerstrasse 49/50, 10117 Berlin, Tel.: +49 30 40004-242, -244

Gesellschaft für Arzneimittelanwendungsforschung u. Arzneimittelepidemiologie (GAA) e.V.. 10. Jahrestagung der Gesellschaft für Arzneimittelforschung und Arzneimittelepidemiologie (GAA) e.V.. Bonn, 16.-17.10.2003. Düsseldorf, Köln: German Medical Science; 2003. Doc03gaa08

The electronic version of this article is the complete one and can be found online at:

Published: October 16, 2003

© 2003 Eickhoff et al.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( You are free: to Share – to copy, distribute and transmit the work, provided the original author and source are credited.



Background and Aim

In self-medication, the abuse or inappropriate use of drugs is a significant problem that increases the risk of morbidity as well as health costs. Pharmacists play a key role in counselling patients on their medication. Apart from the fact that pharmacists are obliged by law to provide advice, it also offers the chance to demonstrate the advantage of community over mail-order pharmacies. This pilot study examined a strategy to improve counselling skills in a natural environment. A pseudo customer methodology was used combined with immediate performance feedback to reinforce skills acquisition.

Material and Method

Participation in this pilot study was offered to all community pharmacies in Berlin (n = 872). Participants were informed that the pseudo customer would visit the pharmacies in a given period of time (six weeks) and would ask for advice on self-medication. They were assured that all results were kept strictly confidential. Data analysis was done anonymously.

The data was documented directly after each visit outside the pharmacy on a feedback sheet containing items to be checked on the counselling process, e. g. information provision, communicative skills as well as information on the situation. Then, the pseudo customer re-entered the pharmacy and offered feedback to the participant. The feedback sheet was used to guide through the feedback provision.


49 community pharmacies in Berlin volunteered to participate in this study. Pseudo customers visited each pharmacy once (only one visit had to be repeated due to discovery). So, in total, 50 pseudo customer visits were made. Pseudo customers were instructed to play their role according to scripts. Two scripts were chosen: (1) Request for an analgesic and (2) inappropriate use of antacids.

Almost all pharmacies (98 %) offered advice. However, in some cases (36 %) advice was only given on demand. Performance concerning communicative skills (comprehensiveness, welcome, etc.) was very good or good in 54 % of the visits.

There was potential for improvement concerning the use of open questions to gain more information on the situation and on counselling about the appropriate use of self-medication.

All participating pharmacies regarded counselling as an important subject in pharmacy practice. Pseudo customer visits as well as immediate feedback were feasible in daily routine. Direct feedback was given in 96 % of the visits (one person refused to accept feedback and one feedback had to be postponed due to time shortage).


In this pilot study the pseudo customer methodology was introduced to Germany. It was shown that pseudo customer visits as well as performance feedback following the counselling process are feasible and well accepted by the participants. A training will be developed and offered to the participating pharmacies focussing on the elements showing the strongest need for improvement. Due to these promising results, the nationwide implementation of this method as part of pharmacy training is planned.