Survey: COVID-19 will change the way local pharmacies operate

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A female pharmacist in a stockroom.

Survey: COVID-19 will change the way local pharmacies operate

By Sandra Levy - 06/01/2020

Get ready for community pharmacies to operate differently for the long term.

In fact, 61% of community pharmacists expect increased point-of-care testing for various illnesses, including COVID-19, while 61% anticipate higher demand for online products, according to a survey released by the National Community Pharmacists Association.

According to the survey, nearly three-quarters of respondents said they did not offer point-of-care testing before the pandemic struck. Sixty-one percent believe that consumer demand for online products will remain high even after the crisis abates.

“Pharmacies have adapted to the crisis in ways that may outlast the disease,” said Brian Caswell, NCPA president and owner of Wolkar Drug in Baxter Springs, Kan.

The survey also found that 56% of pharmacists anticipate the pandemic will lead to the increased scope of practice. This means they’ll be performing more health care services in addition to dispensing medicine. Fifty-two percent believe more neighborhood pharmacies will be doing immunizations. And more than half believe consumers will prioritize local businesses over corporate brands.

Many of the operational changes that pharmacies have adopted in response to COVID-19 also will be lasting, the survey found. More than 82% expect to continue expanded home delivery and curbside service.

“Our pharmacy, like most local pharmacies, offered same-day delivery before the pandemic. We doubled our delivery service and started curbside service to keep our patients and employees safe,” said Caswell. “Most local pharmacists think those are services that consumers will value after the national emergency fades.”

Nearly 60% of respondents believe they’ll keep the plexiglass barriers that they installed to protect patients and employees. Roughly 40% expect that their own pharmacies will expand their online marketing and communications. More than 60% say pharmacy staff will continue wearing masks, gloves, and other protective equipment. Almost 40% believe telehealth will expand.

“Pharmacists are rethinking their businesses just like other companies are doing,” said Caswell. “Some of these changes will be profound. Pharmacists are front-line health care providers, essential to the country’s health care infrastructure. Patient care has always been the top priority. Now we’re finding new ways to deliver the same services, and we’re seeing opportunities to deliver new services. The commitment to our patients won’t change, but some of the ways we do business will.”