The future of pharmacy is already here… so why hasn’t your pharmacy adopted technology?

As we arrive beyond the one-year mark of the World Health Organization’s declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic, we reflect on the role of pharmacy. While a lot of pharmacy operations have remained the same, there are a considerable amount of changes. Between pharmacy and healthcare alike, there has been a shift towards technology. Social distancing was a newly introduced phrase in 2020, and now one cannot escape it. Keeping a safe, 6-foot recommend distance is at the top of all patient’s minds. Patients that were once hesitant to try alternative pickup options, like drive-thru or mail order, now readily accept those methods. Now, patients understand that telehealth options mean the same quality of care. So, where does pharmacy fit into all of this?

Pharmacy was placed in the spotlight at the start of the pandemic. Patients needed a way to receive medications during an uncertain time but didn’t want to wait in line. Pharmacies had to answer with alternative pickup methods. Not all of these technologies are new, mail-order and drive-thru have been options for years. However, in 2020, mail-order boomed and subsequently faced setbacks with increased frequency that overwhelmed carriers. This caused an incredible amount of delays in the middle of 2020.

Likewise, pharmacies that offer alternative pickup technology saw an increase in that utilization and adoption. Our own customer base saw a 33% increase in pickup frequency at ScriptCenter automated lockers and kiosks. Why is that? Well, alternative pickup points benefit both pharmacies and patients. Patients appreciate being away from the standard congestion of the pharmacy. They look for options that allow them to maintain social distance. Pharmacies appreciate the decline in line congestion which keeps their staff safe as well. 

COVID-19 has shown us that healthcare and technology have a newly strengthened partnership that isn’t going anywhere.

It seems apparent to providers and patients alike that technology is here to stay. These alternative pickup methods are here to stay in a variety of ways. Retailers will continue to offer home delivery or same-day pickup options because customers demand them. If Retailer A doesn’t provide it, they’ll go to Retailer B for that convenience. The same principle in offerings goes for healthcare. Providers need to continue telehealth and technology-based services to reach their patient population. According to the CDC, telehealth visits were up 154% in March 2020 compared to previous years. The global telehealth market will expand significantly because of this. In a published survey, Doximity evaluates the telehealth market to grow from $29B in 2020 to $106B by the end of 2023. Simply, the technology market for healthcare and pharmacy is rapidly expanding.

Pharmacies must adopt these technologies, so they don’t fall behind their healthcare counterparts. These readily available advances are designed to increase workflow and expand pharmacy reach. With a Hub & Spoke model, pharmacies can expand their footprint without having to expand their walls. Alternative pickup locations with pharmacy kiosks and locker systems offer incredible convenience to patients. Pharmacies can serve patients outside of the line and the four pharmacy walls. These can also create efficiencies in workflow. Pharmacists need to free up time to work at the top of their license. For example, to offer COVID-19 vaccine administration.

Remember: if your pharmacy doesn’t adopt this technology, your competitors will.