COVID-19 has changed consumer habits and has impacted the pharmacy business model in ways that are likely to have long-term effects. In addition to changes related to the pandemic, other changes with lasting impact include evolving competition and trends in areas such as care, technology and marketing.
Every pharmacy owner should rethink where the business is headed and how best to position your pharmacy for the future. Here are some of the major trends that will influence pharmacy for years to come.
1. Expanded clinical care
Trend: When pharmacies provide more clinical services, it’s convenient for patients, but it’s also beneficial for healthcare infrastructure. Community pharmacies proved their value in providing COVID-19 testing. As of December 2020, Health Mart pharmacies across the U.S. have completed more than 300,000 COVID-19 test collections through a public-private partnership with HHS and eTrueNorth.
In 2020, the federal government continued to recognize the critical role pharmacies play during a pandemic by amending the PREP Act to allow them to administer childhood and COVID-19 vaccines. In 2021, the scope of practice for pharmacists will continue to grow.
Opportunity: You can help patients and grow your business offering point-of-care testing (think beyond flu and strep), injections, patient monitoring and patient education (like diabetes management).
2. Pharmacies as care destinations
Trend: Knowing your patients by name is a hallmark of community pharmacy. Today, however, personalized care is taking on new meaning. Many community pharmacies are often found in healthcare deserts or underserved communities. The wants and needs in these communities are different than patients living in large, accessible, metro areas. For some patients, their local and trusted pharmacist is the only provider available – serving not only as a solution center for the sick but also as a destination for the healthy.
Opportunity: To ensure you can practice at the top of your license and are paid for that work requires continually telling your story at the community, state and national level. Learn how to advocate for provider status here.
3. Telehealth and patient care technology
Trend: A major change during the pandemic has been the rise of telehealth and technology platforms to assist patients remotely. According to a recent Deloitte study, 80% are likely to have another virtual visit, even post COVID-19. Consider older patients who have been the slowest to adapt to digital health technology but now have the greatest need to use it.
Opportunity: With a video platform, an app, delivery service, or even just a phone call or text, it is possible to provide education, support and care for homebound patients.
4. Mobile commerce is king
Trend: A digital transformation is taking place in all industries, including throughout healthcare and in pharmacy. In 2020, social distancing and the new homebound lifestyle have fast-tracked the growth of e-commerce and mobile technologies. By the end of 2021 an estimated 70% of purchases will be made by mobile phone.
Opportunity: Look at your pharmacy’s shopping experience from the viewpoint of today’s customers so you can tailor your experience to meet their needs. You also want to consider how to plan and allocate your marketing investments to fit with changing consumer technology habits.
5. Transparency and reimbursements
Trend: Community pharmacists have spent years fighting to regulate PBMs, the controversial middlemen that manage prescription drug benefits for health insurers, Medicare Part D drug plans, and large employers. On December 10, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling in Rutledge v. Pharmaceutical Care Management Association (PCMA), determining states can regulate pharmacy benefit managers’ (PBMs).
Opportunity: Ask independent pharmacists to name their biggest struggle today, and without skipping a beat, they’ll say reimbursement. Community pharmacy owners need a clear understanding of revenue and costs. The ruling could shake up the status quo and provide long-overdue transparency for community pharmacies.