The fear of getting sick or spreading COVID to others caused many patients to avoid in-person healthcare visits. Doctor’s offices, pharmacies, specialists, and other providers even had to shut their doors in some cases to protect the safety of their community and employees. However, patients still need medical care, medications, and support.
The growth of telehealth services during COVID has been described as explosive. While the healthcare industry was already seeing a rising trend in telehealth and telemedicine, the pandemic accelerated timelines in ways that no one could predict. In October of 2020, the use of telehealth had increased by more than 3,000% compared to October of 2019.
Not only has the number of telehealth visits and claims increased, but the overall sentiment regarding telehealth has improved. Prior to the pandemic, less than 40% of patients with a chronic condition utilized telehealth visits. That number has increased to more than 60% throughout COVID.
Telehealth is Here to Stay
One survey found that prior to 2020, only 17% of Americans reportedly had access to remote or virtual care. By 2020, 70% of respondents noted that their healthcare providers offered telehealth services. About two-thirds of the participating patients felt that some of the medical concerns could be addressed through telehealth visits, and 27% responded that most of their medical needs could be met.
As telehealth and virtual visits become increasingly common in other arenas of care, community pharmacists should take note. Patients have come to expect a level of convenience and safety that only telehealth services can provide. Many healthcare experts and scholars have noted that the changes in telehealth brought on by COVID-19 will be long lasting. The effects of the pandemic on community pharmacy, including telehealth adoption, are likely permanent.
How do patients benefit from pharmacy telehealth services?
Telehealth services in the pharmacy offer considerable benefits for patients that can help improve adherence and boost patient outcomes. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the importance of access to quality healthcare, but it also brought considerable obstacles to access. Providing telehealth services in your community pharmacy can help resolve many of those issues.
Pharmacy telehealth services help patients by:
- Providing safe access to pharmacy services, even during COVID-19
- Providing access to pharmacy and clinical services for rural populations who do not have a community pharmacy nearby
- Offering convenient appointments that work with patients’ schedules and take less time
- Enabling patients to keep up with medications and routine check-ins
- Ensuring patients feel supported by their pharmacist
How do community pharmacies benefit from offering telehealth services?
While your patients are your main concern, your community pharmacy can also benefit greatly from telehealth services. As telehealth services continue to grow in popularity, it may become costly for pharmacies to not offer these services.
For community pharmacies, telehealth services can help you:
- Retain rural patients that have trouble accessing the pharmacy
- Protect patient and employee health during health crises
- Continue offering clinical services and overcome obstacles to care
- Manage your schedule to prevent interruptions to your day
- Enable you to see more patients by creating an efficient schedule
What tools do you need to offer telehealth services in your community pharmacy?
To offer telehealth services in your community pharmacy, you will need the right tools and technology. Keeping up with patient demand, managing your schedule, and staying organized can only be accomplished if your telehealth program is integrated with your pharmacy management software. From viewing patient records to properly documenting patient activity, a synced telehealth solution ensures your appointments are streamlined and optimized.
In addition to telehealth capabilities, you will also need a patient scheduling tool that integrates with your pharmacy management software. A patient scheduler enables you to create telehealth appointments that work with your schedule, so you can avoid unexpected interruptions in the pharmacy. You can also send automated appointment reminders to patients to decrease no-shows and improve patient communication.
Alternative delivery methods are also crucial when it comes to telehealth solutions. Patients who are sick and unable to come into the pharmacy or live far from the pharmacy are likely not able to come in and pick up their prescriptions. Drive-thru, curbside pickup, and home delivery methods take your telehealth services to the next level of care and convenience.
Once you have the right tools in place, it is important to raise awareness for your telehealth services. Add telehealth services to your website, social media, flyers, and more to make sure patients know they can access your pharmacy in a variety of ways.
Telehealth and Patient Scheduling Solutions from TDS
Transaction Data Systems, with our Rx30 and Computer-Rx pharmacy management software, is proud to offer telehealth and patient scheduling tools for community pharmacy. Integrated directly with your pharmacy management system, TDS Telehealth and Scheduler provide the tools you need to take care of your patients, anywhere and anytime. Optimize your pharmacy schedule and provide the services your patients need via virtual pharmacy visits. Contact us today to learn more about digital health tools from TDS, including telehealth and scheduling.