By Thomas E. Hanzel, Pharm.D., MBA, vice president of long-term care and nutraceuticals, Parata.
The role of a pharmacist in today’s world is constantly evolving. While at times seen just as pill pushers, pharmacists are now directly involved in patient care more than ever. The focus of moving pharmacists away from counting pills and towards the front to counsel patients and ensure medication adherence is as critical as it has ever been.
This pandemic has now pushed pharmacists to a more prominent and proactive role as true frontline healthcare providers, specifically those in retail settings.
The transition catalyst has been two-fold. With patients wary of going into primary care doctor offices or the hospital in fear of exposure to the virus, retail pharmacies and pharmacists quickly became patients’ primary source of healthcare and education. With 90% of Americans living within two miles of a community pharmacy, it’s no surprise this transition is rapidly occurring. Now, with vaccines sent to about 6,500 retail pharmacies across the country, and soon to be up to 40,000 retail pharmacies, pharmacists are on the forefront, leading the charge of vaccine immunization efforts.
The Vaccines Are Here, Now What?
As vaccines begin to arrive at pharmacies, there is a communal sigh of relief that normalcy might not be far off. However, for pharmacies and pharmacists, routine immunization of their communities is a far cry from normal. The day-to-day operations of the pharmacy will not cease to exist simply because there is a need for a new vaccine. The patient counseling, prescription filling, doctor phone calls, and critical everyday activities of the pharmacy will continue as the vaccine line grows.
The pharmacists, techs, and staff must incorporate the task of COVID-19 immunization into their already bustling operations. Even though large chains such as CVS and Walgreens are hiring pharmacists by the thousands, and pharmacy job listings are up 35% compared to last year, many small community retail pharmacies simply don’t have the option to just find and add qualified staff. Instead, to combat the rise in businesses many have chosen to turn to a more innovative solution to their problems – technology.