In March, I reached out to one of our pharmacy partners to get a sense of how they were coping with the rapid unfolding of COVID-19. Despite the gravity of the situation, he was calm and confident in their ability to rise to the challenge.
Pharmacies have been through public health crises before. They are prepared to take care of their customers and patients with the least amount of disruption and expand into new areas of service even under the strain of unprecedented circumstances.
While pharmacies can often get overlooked in the discussions about healthcare in the U.S., the reality is that they play a crucial role in community health. Pharmacies serve as the main point of care and trusted contact for millions of people.
The onset of the coronavirus pandemic has prompted pharmacies to assume an even more significant healthcare role, stepping into functions traditionally held by doctors and other HCPs. With retail closures happening everywhere, the pharmacy is one of the few places where people are fulfilling their everyday needs. Therefore, pharmacies are expanding to meet new demands.
Planning, Preparedness, and Execution
As of this writing, pharmacies have hired thousands of new employees in response to additional demand.
They have worked with the government as well as pharma companies to create COVID-19 test sites to rapidly deploy tests across the country. They have enhanced their mail order and delivery services and reorganized stores to emphasize consumer safety. Some pharmacies have even begun manufacturing their own federally approved hand sanitizer to meet the increased need.
But pharmacies are looking to contribute more. There have been calls by state governments and the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) to remove barriers that prevent pharmacists from exercising the full scope of their license and capabilities. These calls are being answered, authorizing licensed pharmacists to order and administer COVID-19 tests to their patients.
Pharmacists are trained professionals ideally situated to assist HCPs in an overburdened system and provide critical support during the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether it is testing, administering vaccinations, or providing treatment, pharmacies already have the trained staff and community footprint needed to quickly deliver these lifesaving measures.
The fact is that while many other retail sectors are down, consumers still rely on their local pharmacy. Retail pharmacies have demonstrated that they are prepared to adapt to swiftly changing and unpredictable circumstances. Despite the uncertainty, it’s good to know we can rely on them to deliver solutions.