Embracing new digital tools

To prepare for new responsibilities, pharmacists should explore and embrace patient-centric digital health solutions.
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H. John Beardsley, senior vice president, corporate strategy, CoverMyMeds

Pharmacists today stand before an open horizon teeming with possibility. In recent years, they’ve navigated the tumultuous waters and rocky cliffs of the COVID-19 pandemic and built new vehicles to deliver care to patients. Best of all, these evolved roles significantly benefited both patients and pharmacies. 

For instance, the 2022 Medication Access Report found 79% of patients experienced sticker shock at the pharmacy in 2021 when picking up their prescription — up from 67% the year prior. In turn, pharmacists often helped provide a cash price or cheaper alternative, and even explained condition and medication information, as well as benefit and payment options. Pharmacists appear to be embracing these new responsibilities, with more than half saying that helping patients afford their medications was a fulfilling or very fulfilling part of their job.

In other words, pharmacists have entered a new frontier. And though the path forward might still be rocky, and they might have to navigate it amid burnout and exhaustion, the direction is nonetheless clear. For pharmacists to survive and thrive in this ever-changing landscape, they must keep exploring and embracing patient-centric digital health tools. 

[Read More: Supporting employees with the right tools for every customer interaction]

How Pharmacy Pressures Could Yield ‘Diamonds’
Market dynamics have left pharmacies facing pressure on multiple fronts. Contending with burnout and exhaustion amid the risk of losing patients who can’t afford their medications, even with insurance, hasn’t been easy. And those challenges are only the beginning.

New entrants offering patient consumerism tools and services abound. The latest, Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drug, is an online pharmacy with potentially big implications for retail and independent pharmacies. Its success might still be undecided, but with patients still experiencing medication affordability challenges, pharmacists must accommodate the new company regardless.

New responsibilities will require new tools, too — especially those alleviating manual processes and surfacing the best price for patients within existing workflows. Readily available access to prescription pricing can save valuable time and energy when a patient can’t afford medication or uses an unfamiliar cash discount card. 

Too often, pharmacists don’t have that option, though. Only 36% said patient-specific benefit information is in their system and just 41% can surface discount card options. Direct connections with biopharma companies, however, could help surface discount card options, programs and educational materials.

The right technology can quickly and accurately do the heavy lifting on repetitive tasks, too — enabling pharmacists to spend more time with patients. Pharmacies with strong recurring patient bases could benefit from automation especially. 

[Read More: How to beat Amazon at its own game]

Automated central fill models can make dispensing prescriptions more efficient and help scale direct-to-patient delivery. Central fill operations can also enable scheduled pick up for patients, while reminders can alert patients via text or the retailer’s preferred patient app about pickups or refills. Reminders also can help patients stay adherent and give the pharmacy more predictable windows for in-store medication availability when home delivery isn’t preferred.

Any time and resource savings could be crucial since half of surveyed pharmacists don’t have time most days to complete their job effectively. Because when pressure mounts, time could be the difference between a pile of dust and diamonds. The latter is a boon to patients and pharmacists, while the former is a future no one wants to see.

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