Pharmacies play an instrumental role in many peoples’ daily lives, yet they are often underappreciated. They exist in a wide range of settings, including retail stores; hospitals; healthy systems and long-term care facilities, and are expected to keep patients healthy while dealing with complex issues ranging from reimbursement rates and low margins to compliance issues. It’s important that we give pharmacies a little TLC in order to ensure their continued ability to meet our needs.
Supporting pharmacies became a hot-button issue in 2020—hardly surprising in the midst of a global pandemic. The role pharmacists play has evolved during the COVID-19 crisis; they are picking up the slack from other areas and providing a valuable service to patients seeking quality and convenience. However, pharmacies often struggle to reduce costs and improve efficiencies due to push back from individuals who don’t understand the full extent of the role they play in serving as a bridge between patients and doctors when it comes to delivery of care.
In order for pharmacies to succeed, it’s vital that pharmacists be allowed to focus on improving patient outcomes. Eliminating busywork through technological solutions can help streamline tasks and give pharmacists more interaction with their patients, being more proactive in their care and improving their overall experience. By automating daily tasks such as adjudication, prior authorization and workflow processes, pharmacies will see improvements in efficiency and performance, not to mention the all-important bottom line through cost reductions and increased revenue. Integrating areas such as claims processing, inventory management and clinical programs enables them to maintain better control over costs and expenses and can lead to new revenue-generating programs, as well.
While news of a vaccine is promising, COVID-19 won’t disappear overnight. It will continue to affect Americans in 2021, both from a health standpoint and financially: in 2020, pharmacies in some areas saw a 15% increase in patients needing financial support. Patient assistance programs (PAPs) have been created to ease their burden through free medications and co-pay assistance; it’s imperative that pharmacies develop strong working relationships with PAP providers to ensure patients in need continue to receive assistance. Other steps they can take to improve patient care while emphasizing safety include free delivery, drive-throughs and curbside pick-up services.
For all the improvements technology can provide—better adherence rates, lower pharmacy costs, improved quality of care, stronger financial performance—the overriding goal is to make sure patients receive the medications they need in order to remain healthy. That will take cooperation and a better understanding of the pharmacy’s vital role in society.