How independent pharmacy owners can leverage telemedicine programs to play an expanded role in patient care while competing with larger chains and online pharmacies.
Remote telehealth has spurred a shift in health care delivery and business practices. Telemedicine is a prime example of this technology and can be a solution to some of the current problems in health care and the post-pandemic world, as some patients are still apprehensive to return to in-person doctor’s appointments. For independent pharmacies, telemedicine can represent an opportunity to bring in additional patients and give pharmacists the autonomy to help enhance and expand patient care.
According to Angela Fusaro MD, MBA, CEO and cofounder of Physician 360, telehealth and in-pharmacy testing are revolutionizing health care. Physician 360 was designed to allow telehealth visits between patients and pharmacists to allow maximal comfort, limited hassle, and effective health care. The cost-effective and time-saving benefits of the program are a plus, especially during the COVID-19 era.
Fusaro noted that Physician 360 began because of the gaps she saw in the health care system as an emergency medicine physician. Emergency medicine is great for seeing the best and the worst of humanity every day, she said, and witnessing gaps in health care firsthand motivated her and her business partner to start the company with a mission to reimagine the practice of urgent care.
“Physician 360 is a virtual health clinic,” Fusaro explained. “Essentially, we partner with community pharmacies and empower them with access to on-demand telemedicine consults and rapid tests for all kinds of conditions that you would otherwise go to an urgent care for. So these are typically conditions that are low acuity, but they’re still nonetheless incredibly disruptive to your everyday life…Our vision was really about partnering with these pharmacies, providing them the tools that they needed, to function essentially like a minute clinic. So, we help them transform themselves into a place where clinical services can be offered. And in that way, we consider ourselves like the next generation of minute-clinics.”
Telehealth became a necessity during the pandemic. Fusaro offered her insights into the ways telehealth can help in times of quarantine or social distancing and the future.
“So, pre-[COVID-19], we had established ourselves as experts in testing and treating for time-sensitive conditions. If you think about the typical user journey for us, the patient walks into the pharmacy, they purchase a test kit, they interact with a Physician 360 doctor or nurse practitioner on their smartphone, they’re walking out of that same pharmacy with a treatment prescription in less than 30 minutes ideally, usually for less than 50 dollars,” Fusaro said. “We were already doing that, we had the infrastructure in place for that type of experience pre-[COVID-19], and then when the pandemic hit, we were appropriately positioned to play a meaningful role in the pandemic.
Before the pandemic, telehealth was viewed as an innovative, forward-thinking model. Now remote testing and telemedicine have been cemented into the health care landscape as the new normal.
“It’s clearly going to be the foundation of what health care looks like moving forward,” Fusaro added.
The patient-focused approach of this program provides patients with access to testing kits and providers they may otherwise not have access to due to the pandemic, geography, large copays, or time restraints. “Everything we do is for the patient and honestly that is what is so motivating… every time I see a testimonial from one of our customers it [says] ‘thank you so much, this was a game changer,” Fusaro said.
According to Fusaro, health care will only continue to decentralize. For example, emergency medicine began with patients only receiving emergency care in a hospital emergency room. looking at emergency medicine. Now, patients have the opportunity to visit urgent care sites. Today, the goal is to take this a step further to pharmacies, Fusaro said.
In addition, some of the test kits available through Physician 360 can even be taken into the home. Health care access will continue to expand and progress due to modern technology. This goes along with putting patients in the drivers’ seat of their health care.
“Telemedicine is here to stay,” Fusaro said. “I feel really confident that we have created a model that truly shines especially in the setting of the community pharmacy and so if you’re looking to get more involved in that space make sure you’re picking a partner that designed a system with you in mind.”