5 Changes That Pharmacies Are Likely to See in 2021

Updated on May 17, 2021

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The pandemic served as a vehicle of change across the world, especially within the medical industry. COVID-19 revolutionized consumer habits that also impacted the pharmacy business model that is here to stay long-term. Evolving competition forced drug stores, doctors’ offices, and other facilities that administer medication to improve their technology, care, and marketing.

1. Mail Order and Pharmacy Delivery Services

Before COVID-19, it wasn’t common practice for pharmacies to mail out medication unless they provided this service to other large institutions or the elderly. Since the pandemic, multiple delivery services for pharmacies have sprouted up to ensure fewer people came in contact with patients who’ve tested positive for coronavirus. In addition, allowing the customer to pay online can streamline the delivery process, and an app can ensure patients receive their items on time.

Why It’s Here to Stay: Pharmacy delivery services were always an option, but few took advantage of them because they weren’t aware they existed. Now it will be easier for everyone to receive medications outside of the home and avoid making others sick.

2. Pharmacies Becoming Care Destinations

Pharmacies quickly moved into healthcare areas to serve the needs of the country and, as a result, became familiar with these communities. Pharmacists were able to refer to patients by their first names and grow a personal relationship with local families. For some patients, these pharmacists are seen as a light in the dark, and solutions centers act as care destinations for both the sick and healthy. Thus, local pharmacies essentially bring communities together.

What It’s Here to Stay: Pharmacists are ranked as the most trusted and ethical healthcare professionals and often live within the community they treat. Advocating for provider status will cement them as healthcare providers where they can assist in growing their communities.

3. Drive-Thru Testing and Vaccinations 

Innovation comes in the most unpredictable ways. It was completely unheard of and considered unsanitary to administer tests or vaccinations away from a doctor’s office. Since COVID-19 was able to spread through close contact, administering tests in a building became too risky. The risk posed to healthcare staff was considered so severe that the United States amended the PREP Act to allow pharmacists, nurses, and doctors to administer childhood and COVID-19 vaccines.

Why It’s Here to Stay: Driving up to a doctor’s office and receiving a vaccine, point-of-care testing (for strep and the flu), and injections offer convenience for busy adults. Pharmacies can expand to deliver patient education and patient monitoring by vehicle as well.

4. Reimbursements Transparency

One of the biggest fights pharmacists have had to endure is regulating PBMs or Pharmacy Benefits Managers. These companies manage prescription health benefits on behalf of insurers, large employers, and Medicare Part D drug plans. At the end of 2020, the U.S. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Rutledge in the Rutledge v. Pharmaceutical Care Management Association (PCMA) case, which now allows states to regulate PBMs, leading to transparency.

Why It’s Here to Stay: Not knowing that actual revenue and costs for medications and care can make it difficult for local pharmacies to help their community. With this ruling in place, pharmacists can offer transparency for local pharmacies, which benefits the community.

5. Virtual Visits Become More Common

Multiple health care providers, including the mental health sphere, couldn’t fathom a landscape where appointments were conducted over video conferencing software. Medical institutions across the board changed their minds when they realized how dangerous it would be for them and their patients to receive healthcare in person. Platforms like telehealth have bridged the gap between convenience and utility by making it possible for anyone to obtain medical advice.

Why It’s Here to Stay: Although medical staff and pharmacists will need to see patients in person for some tests, all advice can be given over a video platform or an app. Anyone who is slow to adapt to this technology can receive the same quality of healthcare by phone or text.

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