News • 04.06.2020

COVID-19: lasting changes in the way local pharmacies operate

Survey of American NCPA (National Community Pharmacists Association)

Pharmacist hands a small package of pills to someone...
Source: Bildagentur PantherMedia / DragonImages

COVID-19 is changing the way local pharmacies do business, perhaps for the long term, according to a new survey released by the National Community Pharmacists Association.

According to the survey, 61 percent of community pharmacists anticipate that more pharmacies will be offering point-of-care testing for various illnesses, including COVID-19 when that becomes available. Nearly three-quarters of respondents said they did not offer point-of-care testing before the pandemic struck. 61 percent believe that consumer demand for online products will remain high even after the crisis abates.“Pharmacies have adapted to the crisis in ways that may outlast the disease,” said Brian Caswell, NCPA President and owner of Wolkar Drug in Baxter Springs, Kan.

Fifty-six percent of pharmacists anticipate the pandemic will lead to increased scope of practice, according to the survey, which means they’ll be performing more health care services in addition to dispensing medicine. Fifty-two percent believe more neighborhood pharmacies will be doing immunizations. And more than half believe consumers will prioritize local businesses over corporate brands. Many of the operational changes that pharmacies have adopted in response to COVID-19 will also be lasting, the survey found.

Home delivery and curbside services

More than 82 percent expect to continue expanded home delivery and curbside service, for example. “Our pharmacy, like most local pharmacies, offered same-day delivery before the pandemic. We doubled our delivery service and started curbside service to keep our patients and employees safe,” said Caswell. “Most local pharmacists think those are services that consumers will value after the national emergency fades.”

Nearly 60 percent believe they’ll keep the plexiglass barriers that they installed to protect patients and employees. Roughly 40 percent expect that their own pharmacies will expand their online marketing and communications. More than 60 percent say pharmacy staffs will continue wearing masks, gloves, and other protective equipment. Almost 40 percent believe telehealth will expand.

Essential to the country’s health care infrastructure

“Pharmacists are rethinking their businesses just like other companies are doing,” said Caswell. “Some of these changes will be profound. Pharmacists are front-line health care providers, essential to the country’s health care infrastructure. Patient care has always been the top priority. Now we’re finding new ways to deliver the same services, and we’re seeing opportunities to deliver new services. The commitment to our patients won’t change, but some of the ways we do business will.”

The NCPA COVID-19 survey was sent to 8,000 pharmacy owners and managers from May 18-May 25. It is based on 315 responses.

Source: National Community Pharmacists Association

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