Digital pharmacy services are revolutionizing healthcare delivery by offering an integrated solution that allows for interactive exchange among patients, providers, government agencies, and insurers. This ultimately results in an increase in the overall quality and safety of patient care with fewer medical errors, increased administrative efficiency, decreased healthcare costs, and expanded patient access. With the projected global digital pharmacy market reaching $211.9 billion USD by 2027, it is essential to understand how current trends are shaping the industry and how to take advantage of these trends to increase patient flow and encourage pharmacy growth. Let’s take a look at major trends from the perspectives of pharmacists, patients, and government/regulatory bodies.
The implementation of technologies undoubtedly helps streamline the delivery of professional pharmacy services and frees up time for the pharmacist so they can focus less on administrative tasks and more on providing thorough patient care. Digital clinical tools and guides may also help pharmacists become more comfortable with expanded scope practices, motivating them to confidently provide more of these services. A study of 136 pharmacists in Canada found that among those who use telepharmacy, 72% felt that it augmented their clinical practice and 80% felt more comfortable managing minor ailments. Interestingly, among those that did not use telehealth, 85% of pharmacists expect that it will augment their clinical practice and 91% stated that they would feel more comfortable with minor ailment prescribing if telepharmacy was implemented. This shows that there is a high volume of interest in conducting clinical pharmacy services through digital support tools, but the majority of reluctance is due to the lack of proper practice management or support.
The biggest benefits offered by digital services are convenience and accessibility. A survey conducted by the International Pharmaceutical Federation found that 25% of patients who opted to use online pharmacies were doing so because it offered improved access to their services. The second biggest reason was convenience at 23%. Lastly, 10% stated cost as the most important benefit. However, concerns such as inadequate counselling, reduced face-to-face interaction, and cybersecurity threats exist. The good news is that these concerns can be addressed with current digital pharmacy solutions. Video conferencing can facilitate meaningful face-to-face education with patients to provide comprehensive information, answer questions, and alleviate concerns. Cybersecurity concerns are also being addressed, with current platforms having numerous security features that are independently verified and are HIPAA* and PHIPA** compliant. While some patients may remain skeptical, education and training can get them more comfortable interacting with your digital interface.
*HIPAA: Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act
**PHIPA: Personal Health Information Protection Act
Canadians are struggling to find family doctors. In Ontario alone, 2.2 million people do not have access to a family physician. In response to this, governments and regulatory bodies have been leveraging the clinical powers of pharmacists in the hopes of bridging that gap. Since the beginning of the year, minor ailment prescribing has not only been approved in Ontario and British Columbia, but further expansion of additional minor ailments in Ontario has also been announced. Furthermore, point-of-care testing has also seen an increase in uptake and pharmacists may soon be able to order lab tests. To manage and serve Canadians who can benefit from these services, the integration of digital pharmacy solutions into the busy pharmacy workflow will be crucial. The last thing you want to do is to turn patients away from additional services due to lack of support or disruptions to your workflow.
As the pharmacist’s scope of practice continues to expand, more and more patients will be asking about digital pharmacy services for more convenient access to their medications and clinical assessments. If you are looking for a simple way to get started, consider MedEssist! MedEssist is a digital solution for prescription refills, appointment scheduling, patient assessments, patient care plans, and other services. Our team of licensed pharmacists has developed support tools based on clinical guidelines to ensure expanded scope services such as minor ailments and travel health assessments can be completed efficiently and are easily integrated into your pharmacy’s workflow to provide seamless care to your patients.
If you are looking for help on how to get started with MedEssist, just ask us!