Technology, COVID-19, and scope expansion—here’s how pharmacists can capitalize on opportunities coming in the new year.
It may seem like folly to try to predict the future; however, if the COVID-19 era has taught us anything, it’s that things can rapidly change. But it’s always a good idea to be prepared for whatever may come next. If I had some kind of “Magic 8 ball” for pharmacists in 2022, here’s what it would say.
1. Prepare for the continuing expansion of scope to meet public health outcomes
Nobody can argue that pharmacists are among the most trusted medical professionals. And with 90% of Americans living within 5 miles of a pharmacy, we are also some of the most accessible, supporting underserved and rural areas.
That accessibility makes us key players in public health outcomes. COVID-19 changed our role in this arena, and in 2022, the trend should continue, with the expansion of clinical services to patient populations seeking more convenient and timely access to acute care services, such as birth control and tobacco cessation.
In both cases, some states already allow pharmacists to prescribe these services, and that may expand in 2022 as more legislators recognize the power of trusted community pharmacists who regularly see patients, perhaps even more often than their primary care providers. And if we can connect Medicare and Medicaid billing into the process, the outcomes for public health will be tremendous.
No matter what, the drumbeat of pharmacists pushing to work “top of license” will continue, with various testing, prevention, and treatment of acute minor ailments coming live. We pharmacists have to be ready with a system that allows us to work that way.
2. Keep up COVID-19 clinical services—uncertainty will continue
No 2022 forecast would be complete without COVID-19 in the mix. Pharmacists will continue to play a key role in testing and vaccinations, with additional complexities with pediatric vaccination and the possibility of yearly boosters. And with possible variants and waves still coming, there’s no clear view on how COVID-19 will continue to impact public health.
One opportunity for pharmacists is COVID-19 treatment. Unvaccinated rates vary by state, and COVID-19 contraction is still a reality throughout the country. Pharmacists can help fill the void to treat it.
With the amendment of the Prep Act this fall, licensed pharmacists can administer monoclonal antibody treatment, and pharmacists should prepare for the opportunity now with CE courses. With the possibility to help patients on 3 fronts in the COVID-19 pandemic—prevention, testing, and treatment—pharmacists will continue to prove their impact in communities nationwide in 2022.
3. Look for Artificial Intelligence (AI)-driven technologies to change the pricing landscape
What connects the expanding role of pharmacists and our immense expertise? Technology. With digital solutions that streamline our business and help us connect with patients, the opportunities for pharmacists become almost limitless.
One such technology is AI. Hearing the term may conjure images of robots in a scene from a science fiction movie, but the technology is real and its implications are powerful, especially when applied to prescription drug pricing.
AI can ingest enormous amounts of information, analyzing for trends based on any number of inputs, including location, demographics, seasonality, and, in the case of prescription drugs, therapeutic type and usage. Applying intelligence to the guesswork of drug pricing can increase profitability and efficiency for America’s pharmacists while still balancing what patients want and need.
In 2022, I think we’ll see more talk of how technologies such as AI can help usher in a new era for community pharmacists.
As always, patient care is at the center of everything we do.
No matter what the new year brings, patient engagement and care will be top-of-mind for all community pharmacists. And though it may sound counterintuitive, technology can help here, too.
Digital solutions are available to connect pharmacists and patients in meaningful ways, offering new opportunities to help new patients, which is always the goal.
About the Author
Paige Clark, RPh, is the VP of Pharmacy Programs and Policy at Prescryptive, overseeing the company’s policy work to drive awareness, utilization, and scope of trusted independent pharmacists nationally. Prior to Prescryptive, Paige spent 11 years at Oregon State University's College of Pharmacy, driving policy initiatives for the state’s licensed pharmacists, including the prescribing of birth control and tobacco cessation services. Paige also worked as the Staff Pharmacist Consultant for the Oregon Board of Pharmacy, managing rule writing, legislative endeavors, and regional and national policy work. She is a frequent speaker and presenter at national industry conferences and a multi-award winner, including several Pharmacist of the Year recognitions.
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