It’s no secret that healthcare is in a state of rapid shifts—it has been for a long time, and it shows no sign of slowing in its evolution—and pharmacy is no exception. From independents to big box to large chains to hospitals, every pharmacist is going to feel (and is already feeling) significant changes.
Perhaps the greatest shift in recent years, however, has come from chains. Changes in chains affect not only the pharmacists working in those chains, but show how pharmacy as a whole is evolving.
Pharmacy is continuing its shift away from solely dispensing medications to providing total care of a patient through drug therapy management, active patient engagement, and the ability to expand clinical services like administering flu shots and vaccines. The major chains are expanding the coverage of healthcare services from pharmacy to incorporating retail healthcare clinics into their locations and having pharmacists practice at the top of their licenses, such as strep testing and treatments.
Ramzi Yacoub, chief pharmacy officer at RxSense, a Boston-based healthcare tech company, believes pharmacy chains of the future will be offering more convenience in healthcare by expanding their in-store clinics, partnering with health insurers and health systems and providing a one-stop shop for patient care.
“With the retail chains already having pharmacists on-site and incorporating diagnostic services through clinics, they can provide a multi-disciplined team of clinicians who can manage the patient holistically,” he says.
He also notes patients are shifting how they consume healthcare. They are more educated about the costs of medications and services as a way to save money.
“Patients are comparative shopping for their medications and taking advantage of prescription savings services like SingleCare to save money on their medications,” Yacoub says. “Pharmacists play a vital role in helping patients become consumers of medications, as they are well informed of the cost of medications and less costly alternatives. I think you will see more transparency in pharmacy both demanded by the consumer but also by state and federal requirements, which will result in a more educated consumer.”
Thomas R. Bizzaro, RPh, vice president, health policy and industry relations, at San Francisco-based FDB, which provides drug and medical information, says in the coming years, chains—like independents—will continue to develop and deepen the important role of pharmacists within the value-based care delivery framework, especially as it relates to primary care delivery and identifying and addressing social determinants of health.
“As we have already seen, retail chains will expand pharmacy services beyond medication dispensing by addressing a growing number of basic healthcare needs, enabling pharmacists to practice at the top of their licensure,” he says. “Of course, pharmacists will continue to serve their communities as the most trusted source of medication and drug information.”
Meanwhile, he believes, automation and technicians will manage more of the pharmacy’s dispensing—while pharmacists will become more involved in routine primary care, especially if it supports medication adherence and better outcomes.
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