The pandemic has changed the ways retail pharmacies deliver prescriptions. But are these methods safe, secure, and cost-effective?

COVID-19 has forced retail pharmacies to deliver prescriptions to patients in new ways. Like other retail businesses, pharmacies have had to react quickly to the pandemic. Patients readily accept curbside pickup, home delivery, and mail order, because they’ve grown accustomed to self-service in retail over the last few years. And during a pandemic, they must accept these methods to get their medications delivered safely into their hands.

Yet…there’s a bigger issue at play. We’re talking about medications, not tomatoes and toilet paper. In a highly regulated industry like prescription drugs, can pharmacies rely on these options in the long run? Are these options safe and secure? And are they cost-effective? Do patients want medication delivery?

The rise of self-service and contactless (medication) delivery

It’s not surprising that pharmacies have adopted self-service options in the midst of COVID-19. After all, self-service in retail has been gaining traction for quite some time.

At first, it was a nice to have. Consumers liked it for the convenience, such as self-checkout at grocery stores, Home Depot, and other retail outlets. Many retailers began to offer curbside pickup, too, so that customers didn’t have to go into the store to collect their purchases. Convenience also fueled online shopping, restaurant apps, and grocery delivery services.

Contactless delivery, however, isn’t limited to a person’s doorstep. Popular services like Redbox showed that consumers are willing to drive to an automated kiosk to pick up their favorite film. Same with Amazon Locker, which ensures the safe and convenient delivery of goods.

Self-service and contactless delivery have expanded to other industries, including healthcare. Consider telemedicine, which enables patients to have appointments with their doctors via phone or video. Or telepharmacy, where pharmacists fill prescriptions from a remote location and use video calls to consult with patients located elsewhere. Mail-order prescriptions are also a commonplace prescription delivery method.

The impact of COVID-19 on self-service

Things are different now, however. The pandemic has catapulted self-service and contactless delivery into a “must-have.” For example, Forbes reported that grocery delivery services, like InstaCart and Amazon Fresh, saw sales quadruple when COVID-19 concerns started hitting the news in March 2020.

COVID-19 has proved beneficial for tech-savvy retailers who established contactless delivery options long before the pandemic happened, according to Fortune Magazine. In fact, Wal-Mart reported a 20% boost in sales in April 2020, fueled in part by online purchases.

The pandemic also changed the demographics of those who take advantage of contactless delivery. Its appeal has broadened beyond the younger generation of digital natives. A report by Salesforce shows that 68% of U.S. consumers have used contactless delivery during the pandemic. While Gen Zers and millennials lead the pack at 81% and 80%, Generation X is a close second at 66%. Baby Boomers come in third at 48%.

Retail pharmacies’ response to COVID-19

To get medications to patients, retail pharmacies have adopted many of the same methods other retail outlets have used to serve their customers. Many offer drive-through and curbside pickup. They are also mailing prescriptions to patients or using third-party services to deliver medications.

Unfortunately, some of these options have shown their cracks. Curbside pickup, for example, is feasible during good weather, but not during harsh winter conditions. Mailing prescriptions to patients can also be problematic due to U.S. Postal Service delays, mail theft, delivery errors, additional costs, and lack of temperature control for some medicines. There’s a financial impact, too. Getting medications delivered to patients outside of the store severely affects foot traffic, revenue, and customer loyalty.

These are not sustainable options in the long run. Therefore, what can retail pharmacies do to safely offer medication delivery to patients while also encouraging people to spend time in the store and shop?

Learn more with a related article “Sustainable Strategies for Retail Pharmacies During COVID-19 and Beyond“.