Expert: COVID-19 Pandemic Has Pushed Pharmacies to Fill Gaps in Care, Rethink Business Model

Susan Lang, MA, MBA, CEO of XIL Health and former senior executive at Express Scripts, on some of the ways pharmacies have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic over the past year.

Pharmacy Times interviewed Susan Lang, MA, MBA, CEO of XIL Health and former senior executive at Express Scripts, on some of the ways pharmacies have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic over the past year.

Alana Hippensteele: What are some other ways pharmacies have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic over the past year?

Susan Lang: So, I think there are some really positive things that have come out of the pandemic. So, let's just talk about who is caring for Americans that are taking pharmaceutical drugs medicines.

In the United States, we're very high utilizers of drugs. This is a country that has an enormous work ethic and sort of this cultural attitude of you never give up, which means even when we're hurt or we don't feel well, we just keep working. So that's just sort of a normal part of American life.

We have about 60,000 pharmacies in the United States. So, 65,000 pharmacies, I think, really stepped up to the plate in a way that if we had just focused on hospital systems—which I ran hospital systems for 21 years, so very familiar with that system—but if we just focused on hospital systems, we could not have gotten out these shots everywhere that you could possibly think of, including to long-term care, to facilities that are typically underserved by hospital systems and clinics.

So, I think that's been a tremendously positive thing for pharmacies, for all of us to realize how critically important your pharmacist is in your care. So, that's one thing that has happened that I think actually would have taken years for folks to really understand how important they are in the supply of critical care.

I think the second issue is I think it's made pharmacies realize that they've got to rethink their business model. So, what's happening overall in the industry is the medical and the pharmacy benefits are blurring—they're merging together.

So, in this case, you have the blurring, also you have administration of a drug, which could be on the medical side, could be on the pharmacy side, and then you have the drug itself and the supply chain.

So, I think what they're looking at now is this is going to keep pushing them to rethink the business model and rethink about how do they actually offer services to the public to fill gaps in care that are out there everywhere, and manage populations that they might not have realized in the past.

So, I think those are going to be 2 critically strategic issues that are happening, and we'll have ongoing influences really on how pharmacies not only see their role but how the public will view them in terms of giving care overall.