According to a new survey released by the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA), coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is changing how local pharmacies do business across the country, and these changes may be for the long term.

The NCPA sent a COVID-19 survey to 8000 pharmacy owners and managers between May 18 and May 25, 2020, and used 315 responses for analysis. Although nearly three-quarters of respondents stated they did not offer point-of-care testing before the pandemic, 61% said they anticipated more pharmacies offering point-of-care testing for illnesses, such as COVID-19, in the future.

“Pharmacies have adapted to the crisis in ways that may outlast the disease,” said Brian Caswell, NCPA president and owner of Wolkar Drug, in a press release.

According to the survey, 56% of respondents said they expect the pandemic to lead to an increased scope of practice that includes other health care services, in addition to dispensing medicine. Immunizations are one such foreseeable expansion of the scope of practice, with 52% of respondents believing more neighborhood pharmacies will be administering immunizations in the future.

The survey also found that many of the operational changes that pharmacies have adopted in response to COVID-19 may also be lasting. For example, 61% believed consumer demand for online products would remain high following the crisis, requiring a strong online presence for pharmacies. For this reason, roughly 40% of respondents said they plan to expand their online marketing and communications. Also, nearly 40% of respondents believe telehealth will continue to expand, which may push pharmacists to begin or continue to offer telehealth as a service option.

Furthermore, more than 82% of respondents expect to keep expanded home delivery and curbside service.

“Our pharmacy, like most local pharmacies, offered same-day delivery before the pandemic. We doubled our delivery service and started curbside service to keep our patients and employees safe,” Caswell said in a press release. “Most local pharmacists think those are services that consumers will value after the national emergency fades.”

Due to current safety concerns, many pharmacy owners installed protective barriers for social distancing purposes. Nearly 60% of respondents believe they’ll keep the plexiglass barriers that they have installed. More than 60% say pharmacy staffs will also continue to wear masks, gloves, and other protective equipment after the pandemic abates.

“Pharmacists are rethinking their businesses just like other companies are doing,” Caswell said in a press release. “Some of these changes will be profound. Pharmacists are front-line health care providers, essential to the country’s health care infrastructure. Patient care has always been the top priority. Now we’re finding new ways to deliver the same services, and we’re seeing opportunities to deliver new services. The commitment to our patients won’t change, but some of the ways we do business will.”

REFERENCE
Survey: COVID-19 Will Have Lasting Changes in the Way Local Pharmacies Operate [news release]. Alexandria, VA: National Community Pharmacists Association; May 1, 2020. Accessed May 2, 2020.