[PC]: Independent pharmacy has had a difficult time, with PBM aggression, consolidation to large mail-order pharmacies, and now COVID-19. In response, it's critical that we look to adapt and create new service lines and offerings to both attract customers and create non-dispensing income.
One service that has become popular with chain pharmacy is urgent care and walk-in clinics; CVS has their own homegrown version, Minute Clinic, while other chains might partner with a health-system or build out a space for an independent company. Neither of these are great options for a smaller pharmacy because they take a lot of space, a lot of capital, and a lot of time we don't have. I'm guessing too not many of us want to add 'landlord' to our job description, even if we could renovate a space to lease to an urgent care company.
When I received an ad from Physician360, I was impressed with how easy and accessible they make adding telemedicine services for pharmacies so we can one-up the urgent cares of the world, so I invited them to write this guest post to tell us more. Take it away!
What is Telemedicine?
Telemedicine is defined as the use of electronic communications, such as two-way video, e-mail, smartphones, or wireless tools, to provide clinical care at a distance so that information can be exchanged from one site to another.
The most common way to use telemedicine is a responsive model, primarily physician-led with virtual visits stimulated by alerts using interactive services, which facilitates real-time interaction between the patient and provider. Many health care settings have increased telemedicine access and utilization and similarly independent pharmacies could benefit from these services.
There are many models that allow independent pharmacies to offer telemedicine services, which in turn provide independent pharmacies with the tools to compete with large chains that have on-site clinics, while attracting new patients and converting them to regular customers. Telemedicine consultations are especially great for patients:
With high co-pays;
Who are uninsured;
Who have high-deductible plans; or
Simply do not want to waste time at an ER or an urgent care center.
With telemedicine consultations, pharmacies can play an expanded role in patient care and have another touchpoint with patients as an urgent care alternative.
Benefits of pharmacies offering telemedicine services
Examining the current situation that we are in right now, COVID-19 has necessitated a CDC recommendation that telehealth services be employed to help. With the rapid growth of the COVID-19 disease caused by the virus, there has been an increase in demand for care; hospitals have been overpopulated and regular health services have been brought to a halt.
By offering telehealth during a time like this, you will be offering a safe, efficient, and affordable solution to your customers that helps the community maintain social distancing. This helps slow transmission and spreads the impact of the virus over a more extended period. Telehealth can also help screen for the virus while providing medical care for relatively benign conditions so patients don't have to go to a doctor's waiting room where they could catch germs that could lead to more serious illnesses/conditions.
In the long term, telemedicine services help pharmacies expand their regular client base. Overall telehealth services are very beneficial for patients who want to save time and money while offering telemedicine allows independent pharmacies to compete with large-chain pharmacies and minute-clinics.
Getting started with telemedicine
The key for pharmacies that want to start offering telemedicine is to find a provider that has experience working closely with independent pharmacies to support their unique business.
Some telemedicine providers can offer support about how to build awareness, through tools such as a ‘pharmacy locator’ which can drive new business to your pharmacy, social media guidance, and more.
The biggest task for pharmacies offering telemedicine is to let customers know it is part of the available options. Prominently promoting telemedicine services through in-store displays, social media, and local community advertisements can be invaluable to ensure pharmacies get the word out.
[PC] You might even consider printing up some 'bag stuffer' ads to put in everyone's bag! While of course those will be existing patients, it can help you retain them and they'll hopefully tell a few friends along the way too.
Dr. Angela Fusaro MD, MBA
ER Doctor Angela Fusaro started Physician 360 to help relieve the pressure on emergency services for easily diagnosed and treated conditions. Physician 360’s mission is to keep communities healthy by providing telemedicine services and treatment plans for common medical conditions and needs like strep, flu, UTI, anemia, birth control, erectile dysfunction, and most recently, SARS-CoV-2.
Physician 360's telemedicine services are remote online consultations by video with a board-certified medical provider in your state. The consultations include prescriptions if the doctor determines that is the best course of treatment, which can then be sent to your local pharmacy for pick-up or delivery if available.
You can visit Physician 360's website to learn more!
Keywords: telemedicine, telehealth, independent pharmacy, pharmacy revenue, urgent care, minute clinic