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The brighter side: Retail pharmacy has some challenges, but there have been some bright spots in 2021

DSN editor in chief Nigel Maynard highlights the highs of the retail pharmacy industry amidst the lows in 2021.
Nigel F. Maynard
Editorial Director

The year 2021 will go down as an uneven one for retail pharmacy. Mostly due to the pandemic, the industry has had to battle labor shortages, supply chain issues, an up-and-down economy and rising inflation. Other long-term issues include the looming threat from Amazon, declining foot traffic to brick-and-mortar stores and consumers who are delaying doctor visits and, consequently, not filling prescriptions and medications.

But the news isn’t all bad. The industry has seen some wins and should take solace (and pride) in some of their accomplishments. Let’s do an end-of-the-year review of some of the positives.

Growing e-commerce: This has been a bright spot for retail pharmacies. As more consumers stayed home to limit exposure to COVID-19, many looked to home delivery for the products and prescriptions they needed, which helped boost the bottom line for retailers. It is likely that this trend will continue after the pandemic is no longer a concern, and more brands are likely to expand on this offering in the coming years.

[Read More: How independents can leverage the pandemic to reposition their businesses]

Telehealth: Another feather in the cap for retail pharmacy was telehealth. When the pandemic hit and consumers put off doctors’ visits, pharmacies stepped in with COVID testing, vaccines and telehealth options. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, telehealth facilitates access to care, reduces risk for transmission of the virus, conserves scarce medical supplies and reduces strain on healthcare capacity. CDC adds that telehealth visits decline as the number of new COVID-19 cases decrease but rise as cases increase.

Pandemic support: When it comes to the pandemic, the accomplishment of retail pharmacy has been well documented. During the last two years, pharmacies stepped up with COVID testing and vaccines, which have had an alternative benefit. The increased role for retail pharmacies brought more consumers into the stores, Bradley Smith writes on the R Global website.

“This presents an opportunity for pharmacies to sell products and educate consumers about available services, including the delivery of other screenings, vaccines, and immunizations,” Smith wrote. “The trend also provides a pathway for retail pharmacies to pursue the conversion of retail space into clinics and primary care service locations. The expansion of pharmacy companies into primary care has driven ‘significant increases in both satisfaction and consumer spending,’ according to the J.D. Power 2020 U.S. Pharmacy study.”

[Read More: Overcoming obstacles: Helping pharmacists’ roles evolve in response to COVID-19’s challenges]

Of course, retail pharmacy still has some issues to solve and some obstacles to overcome. But amidst all this uncertainty, the industry is providing services and support where they are desperately needed. That is the strength of retail pharmacy, and that is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

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