COVID-19 and the Evolution of Pharmacy, Part 1
Pharmacists Increasingly Fulfill Important Healthcare Needs
As of early February 2022, more than 227 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered by retail pharmacies. This represents 40% of the total COVID-19 vaccines administered in the United States.
Pharmacies became a key component of the federal government’s vaccination strategy due to their accessibility, as most Americans live within 5 miles of a pharmacy. As such, throughout the pandemic pharmacists’ roles have pivoted toward a greater patient-centric focus through programs such as telepharmacy and front-line patient care activities. Coupled with provider shortages, pharmacists’ roles have become increasingly important as they evolve to meet patient needs.
The Rise of Telepharmacy
In healthcare, virtual engagements have shifted from an opportunity to make healthcare accessible in rural locations to a common piece of the patient journey as all patients — rural and those in more populous areas alike — seek to avoid in-person interactions where they are at risk of becoming infected with the coronavirus. The digital health industry grew to $110 billion in 2021 as patients sought out remote health services such as telehealth, telepharmacy (i.e., the remote delivery of pharmaceutical care through telecommunications), and others. Apps have been developed to manage digital therapies, allowing patients to interface with the app and allowing the healthcare provider to remotely collect data to help manage the patient.
Pharmacists’ Increased Attention to Patient Care & Safety
In tandem with the rise of telepharmacy comes an even greater focus on patient care delivery at the pharmacy. In addition to the services of medication adherence, refill management and medication therapy management, pharmacists were also tasked with vaccine ordering, administration, management and scheduling as part of the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act to expand access to COVID-19 vaccines. These front-line care activities became central to communities and the patient who relied on accessibility to them to keep them safe, which necessitated the need for technicians to play larger roles in the pharmacy. In some states, pharmacy technicians can perform rapid point of care testing (POCT) and others have become experts in day-to-day telepharmacy operations.
Provider Shortages Affecting Pharmacists’ Roles in the Long Term
According to a recent survey, most people trust pharmacists to play a greater role in providing their care. As the shortage of doctors and nurses continues, the role of the pharmacist will continue to evolve outside the pharmacy. Pharmacists will become more directly involved with patients as they move to settings such as ambulatoryclinics, health systems and home delivery pharmacies.
As pharmacy and the role of pharmacists continue to evolve, pharmacy operations will need to adapt. Contact an expert on our team to discuss a solution to help you evolve with equipment needs or an entire system custom designed for your operations.