Delivering value amid shifting market trends

Pharmacies have expanded their healthcare services beyond traditional medication dispensing. Customized daily medication packaging, wellness programs, 24-hour live chats, a wider range of immunizations, onsite clinics and self-tracking kiosks are just some of the items on the growing list of services available today. Some pharmacies also offer periodic free heart disease screenings for total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar and body mass index. Pharmacies are ideal venues to deliver certain healthcare services, often at low- to no-cost, as well as raise disease awareness and provide wellness education.

Even as online drug dispensing offerings gained some ground in the prescription dispensing marketplace, connection to a retail store — distinguished by the advisory role of the pharmacist — plays a vital role in both personal and community health. Personal consultation with an expert, along with the availability of additional services, brings value to consumers, especially in conjunction with a primary care environment that’s increasingly challenged to meet patient needs promptly and regularly.

Pharmacies and population health management

Retail pharmacies play an important role in population health management. It was only nine years ago that pharmacists nationwide were authorized to administer vaccinations. Today, 25% of annual influenza shots are given at pharmacies, representing a growing trend of forgoing the doctor’s office for a walk-in option. Trust in pharmacies that are convenient and reliable translates to better choices and better compliance.  With the convenience of pharmacy locations and the accessibility of a pharmacist through extended hours, an additional 6.2 million flu vaccines are administered every year. Pharmacies also provide pneumococcal and shingles vaccines for specific patient populations. In a survey, 45% of respondents said they were likely to accept a pharmacist’s recommendation for a vaccine against pneumonia/pneumococcal disease.

As part of the retail pharmacy’s unique and differentiating role, provision of these types of services can build on customer loyalty and grow in tandem with prescription filling and consultation. As more patients come through the door, the pharmacist can identify possible gaps in care and innovative means to address specific needs. Pharmacists can only do so, however, if they can get sufficient information about customers safely and efficaciously within the established workflow. Confirming the accuracy of patient identification is the critical — but sometimes complication-ridden or overlooked — first step of service.

Safeguarding protected health information in an increasingly complex environment  

As pharmacy increases its clinical role, there’s a greater need to keep track of the patient prescription records and verify their identities each time they access a healthcare service. It is necessary for ensuring patient safety and confidentiality as well as for detecting and preventing medication misuse.

Privacy issues are paramount. As pharmacists serve new and existing patients, they must safeguard Protected Health Information, which can be especially challenging when enrolling patients in patient portals. The penalties are hefty for inappropriate use of patient information, whether accidentally allowing unauthorized access to patient data or simply misidentifying and thus miscommunicating with a patient.

By integrating technology that combines patient information from disparate sources into a single matched and linked record within the pharmacy workflow, the pharmacist can validate patients’ identities to help secure their protected health information while protecting the pharmacy from privacy-related missteps. Utilizing a unique patient identifier can take that heavy weight off the pharmacists’ shoulders so that they can quickly and seamlessly confirm case data and move on to the real goal of providing undivided patient focus to realize a quality outcome.

Enabling the connection with technology

When pharmacy workflow is enhanced with patient identity verification, along with having identity intelligence like non-clinical socioeconomic insights, pharmacists can confidently interact with patients, addressing unmet needs and providing guidance on medication regimens, vaccinations and potential healthcare screenings, which is essential for successful patient management.

Enhancing the patient prescription data with data on social determinants of health, for example, can provide valuable insights about medication adherence, disease management challenges and other environmental barriers including logistical and financial concerns. Research by the American Society on Aging and the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists Foundation reveals that “low literacy, lack of health insurance coverage, poor social support, family instability and homelessness” are the most consistently listed reasons for non-adherence. Home delivery can help in some instances, but the pharmacist needs to know when to offer this service and where to deliver the medication.

With social determinants of health alerts as part of the pharmacist’s workflow, the socioeconomic needs of the individual patient can be considered when determining what type of educational materials are needed to improve adherence. Pharmacists can also suggest medication alternatives, where appropriate, or provide counseling about managing a chronic condition.

Maximizing potential to improve outcomes 

Pharmacists continue to expand their role as a key figure in patient care decisions and adherence. With patient identity management simplified and integrated into the workflow, pharmacies maximize their potential for helping patients achieve successful outcomes. The expanded patient insight is a significant differentiator during changing times for medication dispensing.

Craig Ford is vice president, pharmacy market at LexisNexis Risk Solutions