What impact has the pandemic had on traditional pharmacy services, and on the role of the pharmacist?
The pandemic has caused everyone to change the way they do things, and that included pharmacies. Initially, we saw people refilling prescriptions early and stockpiling medicines as a response to the uncertainty. Over time, more pharmacies responded with services like home delivery to meet patients where they are, and the stockpiles in people’s homes receded.
With many physician offices closed and hospitals only open for emergency needs, the role of pharmacists expanded. More than before, pharmacists became patient advocates and accessible health advisors. We also had to do a lot of coordination with other healthcare providers to keep patients on their essential medications.
Here at Mosaic Pharmacy Service, we saw an increase in the number of shut-in seniors being prescribed medication for anxiety and depression in 2020, but few were properly discontinued. We are working with these patients and their prescribers to understand if a need for these medications is still present, and safely de-prescribe them when appropriate.
Another common situation is that patients may have been on medications that had low copays early in the year, but the cost went up when the patient reached the Medicare coverage gap (donut hole). We are spending time helping our patients obtain less expensive medications so they can afford to stay adherent and healthy!
What are the benefits of digital pharmacies and will these services become widely adopted, even after the pandemic?
E-prescribing and digital pharmacies are revolutionising the pharmacy experience. First, e-prescribing is faster, safer, and more reliable than carrying a written prescription to a pharmacy. It makes prescribing and monitoring medications easier for healthcare providers by eliminating errors caused by misreading handwritten prescriptions, and making it easier to monitor for early refill requests and manage the prescription of controlled substances.
Digital pharmacies run on special technology that enables them to bring medication and pharmacy services to the patient—rather than requiring the patient to come to the pharmacy. Services like home delivery, pre-sorted packaging, mobile applications, and tele-pharmacy consultations can improve medication use and outcomes. The pandemic has highlighted the value of this approach, but I expect use of digital pharmacies to continue to grow as more people find that they like the convenience and value of the service.
What are the most important things pharmacies must do to meet customers' expectations?
Looking forward, I think it’s fair to say that rapid innovation in pharmacy is increasing customers’ expectations—and that’s a good thing. People should expect more from their pharmacy service provider! But one size won’t fit all, so pharmacies will need to adapt to the needs and expectations of their customers.
Some customers simply value fast, frictionless, same-day delivery so they can avoid a trip to the pharmacy. Others have more complex needs that can only be met by a more interactive, clinically-oriented service that reconciles prescriptions from multiple prescribers for multiple health conditions and ensures adherence to a safe, simple, and cost-effective medication regimen.
Our Mosaic Pharmacy Service is an example of the latter. We provide pharmacy services tailored to the needs of medically complex and socially vulnerable seniors.
We use predictive analytics to help health plans identify their members who will benefit most from this level of service, and we specialize in addressing the unique barriers to proper medication use that this population frequently experiences—including multiple prescribers, lack of care coordination, and social determinants of health.
We are relentlessly outcomes-focused, and can demonstrate improved quality of care and lower costs for patients who use Mosaic. We’re excited to be part of the innovation in pharmacy that is emerging in response to the pandemic and the longer-term focus on value-based health care.
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