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Will COVID-19 Spur Permanent Change in Pharmacy Operations?

As the country begins to re-open, COVID-19 has triggered many changes and innovations to the practice of pharmacy. The pandemic has forced pharmacy leaders to rethink care delivery and operations – from using artificial intelligence to anticipate COVID-related drug shortages to accelerating provider status to meet the demand for testing and treatment.

Over the next few blog posts, three CompleteRx leaders will share their thoughts on how COVID-19 has impacted pharmacy practice. Here’s an overview:

 

Expanding Pharmacists’ Scope of Practice

Provider status continues to gain momentum at the federal and state levels to help increase patient access to pharmacist services. In April, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a statement authorizing licensed pharmacists to order and administer FDA-approved COVID-19 tests, further advancing provider status efforts.

“The momentum for provider status has been building for some time now. It’s no longer a question of if it’s going to happen; now it’s a question of when,” says Ken Maxik, MBA, MBB, FACHE, RPh, CompleteRx Vice President, Support Services. “I do believe that COVID-19 is going to expand the need for provider status as testing ramps up and when a vaccine is available.”

 

Technology and Artificial Intelligence

Pharmacists are embracing technology and innovative dispensing methods more than ever to keep patients and pharmacy staff safe during the pandemic. Interactive voice response systems automate the refill process and alert patients to prescriptions that are ready. Remote medication counseling and education combined with home delivery, curbside pickup, drive-through services and mailing of prescriptions are getting vital medications to patients safely.

In the past weeks, added attention on chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine has caused shortages of these medications across the country. Justin Sotomayer, Pharm.D., CompeteRx Director of Pharmacy Informatics sees artificial intelligence and predictive analytics as valuable tools to anticipate potential drug shortages. “Using data to make product acquisition decisions is a powerful tool to ensure the right medications are available when patients need them,” he says.

Sotomayer has also seen an increase in dedicated automated dispensing cabinets (ADC) for hospital COVID-19 units. The ADCs house respiratory medications, antibiotics and other therapies for COVID-19 patients. The dedicated ADCs reduce traffic going into and out of these positive pressure units to prevent the spread of the virus.

 

Embracing Virtual Learning

According to Barb Fingar, RPh, CompleteRx Director of Training and Development, large education and training needs emerged with the onset of the pandemic. Pharmacists needed information quickly on everything from promising medications for the treatment of COVID-19 to proper use of face masks in the pharmacy.

“Typically, pharmacists wear masks in specific situations, such as sterile compounding. When COVID-19 hit, they were suddenly being asked to wear them throughout their shift to keep patients and colleagues safe,” she says. “We needed to educate pharmacists on why masks are important and how to properly wear them.

Around the world, in-person trainings and meetings were canceled in response to COVID-19. Companies quickly pivoted to virtual training and education to eliminate unnecessary travel. Fingar anticipates that virtual learning may play a larger role in the training and education landscape once the pandemic is behind us.

 

A New Normal?

When COVID-19 is a distant memory, will we return to status quo or will some of these changes and innovations in pharmacy become the new normal? Now is the time to think strategically about your pharmacy department and ensure you have the right tools and partners in place to improve efficiencies and increase revenue as we move into the next phase of COVID-19 response.

 

In the next blog post, we’ll dive deeper into efforts to expand pharmacists’ scope of practice and how COVID-19 has accelerated this movement.

Interested in learning how CompleteRx can improve your hospital’s pharmacy operations? Contact us today.

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