Independent Pharmacies Are Ready to Provide COVID-19 Vaccinations
Pharmacy Times® interviewed Brian Nightengale, president of Good Neighbor Pharmacy, on the role of independent pharmacies in the country during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
Alana Hippensteele: Why are independent pharmacies important in the country today, and what has been their role during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Brian Nightengale: Yeah, I mean they're important in a lot of ways. They're important geographically—an analysis by [National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA)] showed that in 21% of all of the zip codes in the United States, there's only an independent community pharmacy serving that zip code. So, they're sometimes the only game in town. And so, think about 21% of zip codes, that's a pretty large and wide geography. And then you've got other underserved areas even in inner cities, and such that that these pharmacies are critical. So, from a geography and coverage standpoint, they're critically important.
Then, the type of service they provide is also very important. I mean, these are pharmacies that aren't doing 5 to 7 hundred scripts a day, their volume is much less, [but] they spend more time with their patients, they've got more severe chronically ill patients. For that higher touch need, they are a key area of primary care in their communities.
Again, there's other statistics out there. The average person visits their pharmacy 28 to 30 times a year, and maybe even more, yet they only visit their primary care physician 4 to 6 times. So, it's an access to care, both from a geography standpoint—that's critically important—and then an access to high quality care in a frequent and accessible way. That makes these pharmacies really important in the communities that they serve. And then you talk about COVID-19 and how that is even become even more important in COVID.
Again, one of the key differences in the response to the pandemic—many of the chain pharmacies were able to keep their doors open as vital places of care and access. That wasn't the case for a lot of independents. They had to close their doors and really transition their business model to drive-through, home delivery, and curbside. So, it changed their workflow quite a bit. But they have stood up in a huge, huge way. Almost all independent pharmacies have always provided home delivery, and we've seen the number of home delivery of course just skyrocket because of the pandemic, but they've also gone above and beyond in so many ways.
I mean we've got examples: We had a fearless pharmacy campaign for Good Neighbor Pharmacy that really showcased 60 amazing stories of what independent community pharmacies have done beyond even just caring for the health care needs of their patients. We had an example of a pharmacy that had curbside only, and they set up a stand where people could drop off food—people that had food and wanted to donate could drop off food, people that were out of a job and needed food could come in and drive through and get a quick meal to go. So, things like that that have nothing to do with the prescription.
There's been so many examples. Another one of our pharmacies created a personal handwritten card campaign and thousands of cards were created by kids, and they would deliver them with their prescription medications to nursing homes and assisted living facilities where these patients couldn't see their loved ones. So just stories like that that the pharmacies aren't getting paid to do it. It's just the way they operate. So, we've seen them really step up in a big, big way. And then getting ready to vaccinate the entire country—that's a whole other conversation we could be having. Independent pharmacies are ready to go in terms of vaccinations.