COVID-19 vaccines are changing the role of community pharmacy

In some independent pharmacies, pharmacists voluntarily work longer, unrecorded hours to provide patient care.

Amid a huge labor shortage, pharmacies are currently providing the lion’s share of COVID-19 vaccine recalls (over 150 million and above) and pediatric vaccinations, all in addition to providing care ordinary to patients.

B. Douglas Hoey, RPh, MBA, CEO of the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) says this is a historic change for community pharmacists. “We are in a new era in that COVID-19 has removed some of the barriers preventing pharmacists from approaching practice at the peak of their training. This is a good thing and is long overdue. Pharmacists have always been essential health care providers, but that’s not always how policymakers saw them, ”Hoey told Drug Topics.

With testing, the ability to order vaccines and now even more COVID-19 therapies underway, Hoey says the opportunity for pharmacists to do more for their patients is huge. On November 10, 2021, the NCPA released a new survey of independent pharmacists showing that the majority of independent drugstore owners and / or managers struggle to fill positions and cope with supply chain disruptions. However, market pressures, such as direct and indirect compensation costs for pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) and vertical integration, continue to be the two main concerns.

The results are based on 318 responses to a survey sent to nearly 5,000 pharmacy owners and / or managers between October 26 and November 6, 2021. A strong majority (76%) said they were concerned about possible increases in drug store prices. small business tax, and 64% said inflation is a significant concern. Only 31% of respondents described the overall financial health of their business as very good or somewhat good; 28% described it as average and 41% described it as somewhat poor or very poor. A total of 60% said they face supply chain disruptions and almost 70% of respondents said they had difficulty filling staff positions, pharmacy technician and clerk / frontline staff positions. line being the most difficult to hire.

“Overall, the results confirmed what we’ve been hearing for months. The labor shortage is significant for community pharmacies, but not up to the seriousness that we read with chain pharmacies, ”Hoey said. “This is in part because the workforce is a bit more stable in independent pharmacies and because the pharmacy owner is on the front line with the rest of the pharmacy team. “

The additional demand for vaccination administrations caused by the pandemic has already put a strain on pharmacy teams. With a small number of applicants, pharmacies are forced to offer much higher starting salaries. “There is upward pressure on wages, but pharmacies have no recourse to adjust their prices, as most consumer-oriented companies can, as PBMs determine all pricing decisions,” Hoey added.

At this critical stage, community pharmacies need to get involved in advocacy. According to Hoey, pharmacists need to transform their practices for the future, which means expanding beyond dispensing. ” We launched [the Community Pharmacy Enhanced Services Network] CPESN several years ago to involve pharmacies in clinical services so that they can increase their value to payers and patients. The CPESN has increased significantly since COVID-19 as it is part of the federal partnership for the COVID-19 vaccine. Thousands of pharmacies source COVID-19 vaccines through the CPESN, ”Hoey said.

Everyone instinctively wants to be treated by a familiar face and someone they trust, and that’s the community pharmacist. Big chains cannot compete on the basis of relationships. “COVID-19 has reminded everyone how important independent pharmacies are to the healthcare system, and it’s time to build on that,” Hoey said.

Independent pharmacies are the safety nets protecting their communities, and owners are working overtime, securing their own wages, and doing whatever they can to answer the call. Pharmacist Theresa Tolle, BPharm, President-elect of the American Pharmacists Association for 2021-2022 and owner of Bay Street Pharmacy in Sebastian, Fla., Stressed that doctors cannot manage the administration of all vaccines and boosters – and that there just weren’t enough places to go around.

“In the testing area, this has increased the role of our community pharmacies and now they see us as a healthcare destination. Many come back for their boosters, ”Tolle told Drug Topics.

His pharmacy has been in existence for 36 years and is attracting many neighborhood residents for the first time. “I think a lot of people who never knew we were here now know we are here. Many are now transferring their prescriptions to us, ”said Tolle.

Brian Mayo, executive director of the Oregon State Pharmacy Association in West Linn, Oregon, said many pharmacists and technicians are overwhelmed. In many cases, they are forced to continue working without mandatory breaks, or to work voluntarily longer, unsaved hours in order to be able to provide care to their clients. “They want to help patients. That’s why they chose this profession, but it feels like things are getting out of hand, ”Mayo told Drug Topics.

Pharmacists have played a key role in administering vaccines for decades and especially now during the COVID-19 pandemic. With the flu season underway and the continued rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine in pharmacies, they are essential to protect our families, neighbors and communities, said Mayo, who hopes all of the emergency rules that have been granted during the pandemic become permanent.

Reference

1. Majority of independent pharmacies affected by continuing workforce and supply chain issues, according to NCPA survey. NCPA. Posted November 10, 2021. Accessed November 22, 2021. https://ncpa.org/newsroom/news-releases/2021/11/10/majority-independent-pharmacies-affected-ongoing-labor-supply


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