How Will the COVID-19 Pandemic Change Pharmacy Operations?

pharmacy operations

Editor’s note: I want to say thank you to Kari Scott for contributing this very interesting guest post on pharmacy operations.  We are seeing many industries change in the wake of COVID-19.  How will you adapt?

The outbreak of COVID-19 has forced the medical community to change its operations in order to keep patients and staff safe from infection. The implementation of telehealth (video appointments, phone conferencing, electronic medical forms, etc.) has been quickly adopted to avoid as much in-person contact as possible. Any sort of elective surgery or non-emergency appointments have been put on the back burner.

Advancements in robotics and similar technologies are coming soon to reduce the number of people interacting with each other in hospital and office settings. Robots will be cleaning and sanitizing facilities to lessen human exposure. As there is no end date in sight for this virus, healthcare companies will be continuing with these new procedures in order to provide proper care while minimizing person-to-person contact.

When it comes to pharmacy operations specifically, there has been a shift in procedure as well. However, because patients typically need to go to the pharmacy to receive their medications, the challenge has been figuring out how to reduce exposure when patients come to the physical pharmacy. As the virus has progressed, guidelines and policies have been created so that pharmacists, pharmacy staff, and patients can all stay safe during the process.  

Government Guidance for Pharmacy Operations in Community Pharmacies

The CDC recognizes how vital pharmacies are in providing medicine, vaccines, and health services to the public. Pharmacies must stay open during this global pandemic, so the CDC has created guidance for pharmacy operations on how to stay safe while continuing to offer their services. 

Universal Use of Face Coverings

  • Anyone entering the pharmacy should wear a face covering to protect themselves and others in the pharmacy.  The CDC recommends this regardless of whether or not someone is showing symptoms. 
  • Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians should be wearing a face mask the entire time they are working.
  • Medical masks are encouraged over cloth coverings for healthcare workers as they do not become as wet, uncomfortable, and visibly contaminated in comparison.

pharmacy operationsKeep Sick Staff at Home

  • If a staff member has a fever or COVID-19 symptoms, make sure they do not come into the workplace until they have fully recovered.
  • Also ensure that sick leave policies are flexible, nonpunitive, and consistent with public health guidance.

Prescription Fulfillment Process

  • Offer hand sanitizer for patient and staff use.
  • Ask for all prescribers to submit orders via telephone or fax to avoid in-person contact.
  • Once packaged, place the medication on a counter or surface instead of transferring directly from staff to patient.
  • Avoid touching objects, insurance cards, and credit cards that belong to patients. If handling these objects is required, staff members should immediately wash or sanitize hands directly after.

Minimize Close Contact

  • Practice proper social distancing guidelines by keeping every individual six feet apart from each other at all times.

New Innovations Pharmacies are Using

Pharmacy operations have changed since the COVID-19 outbreak to protect workers and patients from contracting the virus. Some of the changes that have been made are: 

Sanitization stations in pharmacies

  • Offer hand-sanitizer stations throughout the pharmacy.
  • Encourage hand washing for employees every hour.
  • Install plexi-glass barriers between pharmacists and patients that come into the store to pick up medications.
  • Clean all surfaces with disinfectant frequently.

Remote pick-up options

pharmacy operations

  • Home Delivery: If your pharmacy has this option, encourage patients to take part in home delivery so they do not have to risk leaving their home at all.
  • Curb-side pickup: If your pharmacy does not offer home delivery, implement a curb-side pickup option so patients do not have to come into the physical store. 
  • Drive-through: Again, if your pharmacy has a drive through, emphasize its use.
  • Send a messenger: If you can communicate this to your high-risk patients, let them know they can use a healthier messenger (family member, friend, caretaker) to pick up medications.

Remote counseling

  • Offer phone or video consultation services so that patients can call in to receive information about their medication plans.  That way, they don’t have to schedule in-person follow up appointments. 

As COVID-19 continues to affect communities at large, pharmacies are finding that these new innovations are extremely effective and intend to continue these operations following COVID-19. 

How Our Pharmacy Operations Have Changed to Maintain Safety

At all Apotheco locations, all of the necessary steps have been implemented in accordance with CDC guidelines.

Facemask, sanitization stations, and social distancing.

  • Staff members at every pharmacy are wearing face masks, frequently washing their hands, and are properly staying six feet apart from patients and staff members as much as possible. 
  • We require all patients to follow these guidelines in every location upon entering.  

Free home delivery

  • One feature that Apotheco has not changed since the COVID-19 outbreak is their free home delivery service. Patients typically receive the medication within 24 hours of their order directly on their doorstep.

Telemedicine

  • We can interface with all telemedicine platforms to receive prescriptions from providers
  • Additionally, we have chat functions available on our website to communicate with MDs and patients. 

The majority of our client base prefers to take advantage of our free home delivery option. Before COVID-19, the convenience of having prescriptions dropped off at a patient’s doorstep was too good to pass up.

Currently, with COVID-19 restrictions in place, the home delivery option is proving even more effective as patients are always looking to stay at home and practice social distancing. Overall, our business model is shifting to expand delivery options to even more states and cities outside of where our physical locations exist!

In conclusion, while COVID-19 has presented a challenge for pharmacy operations, most have been able to pivot to provide quality care to patients while staying socially distant and safe. 

Further Reading

 

Please leave a comment below!  What changes have you made to your business in the wake of COVID-19?

 

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COVID, covid-19, pharmacy

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