While pharmacies continue to grapple with ongoing challenges stemming from the pandemic, many pharmacy leaders are contemplating what mechanisms introduced or exacerbated by the pandemic will remain moving forward. For both the near and far term, COVID has altered many practices, particularly those related to how services are rendered to patients, as well as the level of interaction patients now desire in their care.
Building patient-centric services is not a new concept, but it has grown in need dramatically. Patients want to interact with their care providers and gain access to their care data. Enabling these patients to ask questions of the pharmacy via a patient portal or other electronic interface is a positive step.
Many aspects of virtual health care will certainly remain intact moving forward, and the pharmacy can take advantage of this rise in patient engagement. For example, consider a daily, automated text message to patients taking oral chemotherapy. It can ask whether the medication has been taken, and if not, a list of follow up questions can determine whether pharmacy intervention may be necessary. Given the often substantial cost of certain drugs, adherence to prescription is absolutely essential. That said, pharmacists are certainly aware of alert fatigue, and if a patient is following their treatment plan, they can opt for fewer text messages.
Other virtual and telepharmacy concepts, such as engaging with patients who are technically on site (ie, in a parking area), but are awaiting the appropriate time to enter the building, also can be explored. While this practice may fluctuate based on the area, elements of that practice, such as texts or calls informing of appointment delays, can continue to benefit the pharmacy and the patient.
It is crucial that we learn and apply the lessons from this pandemic and squeeze out every silver lining. Our hope, which we share with everyone, is that we can emerge from the cloud of this pandemic sooner than later and yet remain better prepared to face something similar in the future. Embrace patient interaction; it is one approach that will bear fruit.
All the best,
R. Mitchell Halvorsen,