When Jack Dunn of Georgia-based Jasper Drug Store was asked how his pharmacy was keeping in touch with patients during this period of quarantine and social distancing, he was quick to cite examples of staff members going the extra mile. "We put together a list of names, and those people we haven't heard from, we call them," he explained. "We had one [staff member] pick up groceries for someone. Another went to check on a patient in hospice who had fallen through the cracks and was in terrible shape."
Dunn was speaking as part of a "virtual town hall," sponsored by the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA), in which a dozen community pharmacy owners shared experiences about how they were managing during the COVID-19 crisis. Not surprisingly, providing patients with uninterrupted access to their medications was a front burner issue. So too was the importance of maintaining contact with patients, reinforcing the need to take all medications as prescribed, and not falling behind in obtaining refills.
Medication non-adherence has long been a top healthcare concern, with the American Pharmacists Association noting approximately 50 percent of patients do not take their medications as prescribed. The results of non-adherence are steep, both in terms of worsening patient outcomes, and the estimated $300 billion in added healthcare costs.
In the wake of this pandemic, there is concern that medication non-adherence rates could spike. The isolation of prolonged home stays, combined with the economic fallout from job losses, may cause even more patients to stop taking their medications.
"Now, with the closure of businesses, paired with shelter-in-place, quarantines, and safer-at-home guidance, a patient's normal medication access routines via caregivers, rideshares, and other support systems has been reduced or eliminated entirely," Jason Rose, chief executive officer at Adhere Health, told Pharmacy Times. "Unfortunately," he added, "many [patients] don't have support and are going without care, and in many cases coping without medication and other necessary treatments."
Which is where a pharmacy's technology system comes into play.
Many technology systems allow pharmacies to generate automatic refill reminders, which have been shown to improve adherence. However, certain systems offer more advanced capabilities that allow pharmacies additional options for keeping open the lines of communication with patients.
The PrimeRx™ pharmacy technology system provides a good example. PrimeRx™ features a communication module called PrimeCOMM™ that allows pharmacies to easily communicate with patients via secure, two-way outbound calling, SMS/TXT or email.
The PrimeCOMM™ solution integrates seamlessly with a pharmacy's daily workflow through capabilities that include:
Messages can include a broad scope of important information:
Most pharmacies are ensuring uninterrupted access to medications via home delivery services and curbside pickup access, but maintaining communication is also vitally important. PrimeRx™ helps pharmacies disseminate important information and maintain vital links to patients during this unprecedented time.