Community pharmacy best practices ‘floated at the top’ during the COVID-19 pandemic

In an interview with Pharmacy Times® at the National Community Pharmacists Association annual conference, Carlie Traylor, director of strategic initiatives and student affairs at NCPA, discussed the growing role of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians and how COVID-19 has changed the landscape of services offered in community pharmacies.

Q: What are the key takeaways from the NCPA Innovation Center/CPESN Community Pharmacy Fellowship?

Carlie Traylor: Some key takeaways for the Center for Innovation and Community Pharmacy Fellowship are that our work is your success. We try to meet members where they are and provide them with the resources and support they need to thrive. I like to use this phrase grow where you are planted. The scholarship program really does that when it creates a one-year program that has the structure, support, accountability, plus all the expertise you would need to be successful.

Q: How are point-of-care tests developing and how can pharmacies best use them?

Carlie Traylor: Point-of-care testing has been around for decades in community pharmacies, but it’s become absolutely vital during the COVID pandemic. For example, in our very first class, we had a pharmacy where you had to choose a capstone project. Their flagship project has already been chosen. They called me in a panic in November asking if they could move on to point-of-care testing. Absolutely. The Capstone project is intended to help pharmacy. This pharmacist now finances her entire position thanks to the income generated by this project. So that’s a testament to not only the value, but also the money-back potential of this service.

Q: How can pharmacies improve workflow to help ease the burden on pharmacists?

Carlie Traylor: So I’ll quote, The Great Travis Wolf, so owner in Oklahoma, he likes to say when’s the last time you went to the doctor and they took your weight? Right. When you go to a pharmacy, you have to be so efficient. Pharmacists are the most accessible, community pharmacists are the most accessible health care providers, and we should remain that way, but we should also have structure. Absolutely using all the different members of your team. I’m going to pitch something that I learned through the scholarship and our faculty actually collaborate with industrial engineers, especially industrial engineering students, because they’re all required to have a capstone project, and the pharmacy is absolutely perfect for this to analyze workflow and you will be shocked at the impact moving a bookcase 2 feet to the right can have.

Q: What are the roles of pharmacy technicians in pharmacy services as pharmacies continue to grow?

Carlie Traylor: Pharmacy technicians are absolutely essential as we expand these community services. The reason being that pharmacists are becoming more educated and have more expanded roles, they need their technicians to do the same. I have story after story of how the technicians were interventionist. I just spoke with 1 recently where I gave him a project I had heard about that reimburses the pharmacy $200 per patient who is identified for the diabetes prevention program. Within 2 hours, she had identified 3 patients. I’ve never had to work with a pharmacist to make this happen at this pharmacy earning $700 through the efforts of this technician connecting patients to the services they needed.

Q: How has COVID-19 changed the landscape of services offered within a community pharmacy, and do you think these service changes are here to stay post-pandemic?

Carlie Traylor: The COVID pandemic has been a trial by fire, and what I’ve seen is best practices have floated to the top. We’ve had grip packs, we’ve had delivery services, we’ve advocated for pharmacies to do it. If you weren’t doing them before the pandemic, you’re absolutely doing them now, and while I don’t think that necessarily increased the number of services, I think those services were there, it increased the impact and the number of participating pharmacies. I am so grateful to be part of a profession that has been so frontline in support during the pandemic. I am so proud of our members.

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