Access to this type of information online also allows pharmacies to reduce their complete reliance on paper-based educational materials, which patients may forget about or throw away.
Having customized patient education content available on-demand through desktops or apps, where it can also be integrated with a patient’s digital calendar, can encourage adherence and ensure that patients take their medications correctly.
Yacoub thinks there will continue to be an increase in online consumers of healthcare as well as more telehealth services being utilized, especially in rural areas of the country and where there is a lack of clinicians in a particular segment such as behavioral health.
“The demand for online services will continue to increase as the younger generation accesses healthcare services like they consume products and services today,” he says. “Retailers will need to continue to increase their presence online and allow patients to be consumers of healthcare online, but there will always be a need for a combined brick and mortar strategy along with a mobile presence.”
Hallan notes that with the acquisition of PillPack by Amazon, pharmacy received a lot of focus and a lot of new players. Many are focusing on key areas such as erectile dysfunction and then slowly expanding to other areas.
“But a lot of them are the same basic thing—lowering the cost of prescription medications while satisfying the customer expectations of fast and convenient shipping and good customer service,” he says. “I think a company that is planning to enter this area needs to know that while price is important, they need to have a plan on what they have to offer once prices become a non-competing factor. The customer service differential will always be there but it would be nice to see how they introduce the pharmaceutical expertise in this mix.”
Role of the Pharmacists
In the years ahead, pharmacists will need to continue to evolve in providing their clinical expertise in treating patients and being an integral part of the healthcare team.
“As we are seeing technology advance, and a continued shift to e-Prescribing, the dispensing of medications will be less of a focus for pharmacists,” Yacoub says. “Pharmacists will be providing more medication therapy management (MTM) services and consultations to patients on how to improve their care. As we see more integration of healthcare services, we will see a multi-disciplinary model of a healthcare team to deliver care to patients.”
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In that model, pharmacists will continue to provide their guidance and expertise in medications to deliver the best possible outcomes to patients.
As healthcare moves toward value-based care and retail pharmacies evolve their role within the ecosystem, it’s projected that more pharmacists will be stepping out from behind the counter—with a focus on delivering some components of primary care as non-physician providers.
Bizzaro says services that pharmacists provide will increasingly include the administration of immunizations—already commonplace in most pharmacies—as well as chronic care management, which may include services such as helping patients with diabetes interpret their HbA1c readings and giving them advice on lifestyle changes that will support better outcomes in combination with their drug therapy.
“With the personal touch that pharmacists have always had with patients—one of the key benefits of having so many pharmacists in neighborhoods—they will also help patients overcome social determinants of health challenges and will help connect them to social care agencies to address issues such as transportation, food insecurity and social isolation,” he says. “The pharmacist is ideally suited to address these concerns, considering they often interact with patients more frequently than their physicians do.”
What must also evolve, he notes, is a payment mechanism that recognizes the time and expertise pharmacists will be spending on these important care services that go beyond medication dispensing.
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“Payers already recognize the important ROI pharmacists can bring, especially in a value-based care environment, to improve outcomes, lower healthcare costs, and improve patient satisfaction,” Bizzaro says.
Talha Sattar, founder of NimbleRx, a prescription delivery service, sees fewer brick-and-mortar pharmacies in the years ahead, with a huge uptick in delivery.
“I think the pharmacist is an underutilized resource today and the utilization will increase more towards drug management and counseling, which you are already seeing in CVS, with building basically a physician’s office in-store,” he says. “It will be much more about managing the health and relationships, and less about filling the prescriptions.”
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