It is certain that COVID-19 will impact health system pharmacies, and all of US health care. This includes permanent changes to workflows and business models. While we don’t have answers for many questions yet, there are some clear areas it will likely have the most affect.
Health System Pharmacy Supply Chains
A recent speaker on CNBC stated that health systems will move from a “just in time” supply model to a “just in case” model. One of the greatest impacts of this shift will be on the pharmacy. Health systems will likely have to tie up more money in supplies. This will not just include the costs of medication and PPE inventory. For example, there are indirect costs like securing larger storage facilities to for added inventory, as well.
In addition to increased inventory levels, health systems may need to source critical medication and PPE from manufacturers in the US to avoid supply chain disruptions from overseas suppliers.
Mail Order Pharmacy Services
Another way COVID-19 will impact health system pharmacies is around mail order. Health systems have been developing these services over the last several years. Mail order pharmacy services typically focus on providing patients with maintenance drugs used to manage chronic conditions.
They can produce positive results like:
- Better adherence
- Fewer costly readmissions
- Lower patient costs
- Greater dispensing margins for the pharmacy
However, mail order pharmacy offers another significant benefit. Something that may have been undervalued before. It can keep the most vulnerable patients socially distanced.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act may impact pharmacy mail order as it modifies the Social Security Act to require, during the COVID-19 emergency period, Medicare prescription drug plans and Medicare Advantage Part D plans to allow individuals enrolled in these plans to obtain up to a 90-day supply for a single fill or refill. While this is a temporary modification, positive results could cause to federal government to make this permanent.
Patient Assistance Programs
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic roughly 2/3 of all bankruptcies in the US were tied to medical issues. This was either because of the high cost of care or time out of work. As of April 9th, COVID-19 had already resulted in over 15 million people filing for unemployment over the prior three weeks.
While the CARES Act will make cash payments and increase unemployment benefits for many Americans, it’s likely that we will see a dramatic increase in the number of patients that need help affording their medication. The impact of this should not be underestimated. The whole system starts to break down if patients can’t afford their prescribed treatments for diagnosed illnesses.
Summary: COVID-19 Will Impact Health System Pharmacies
In conclusion, this is likely just the most obvious tip of the iceberg. The true impact on health system pharmacies will take some time to become fully apparent.
As you prepare your post-COVID-19 plans, take a look at our Rx Savings Assistant®. It is a powerful supplement to your other financial assistance programs. All of your efforts to reduce patients costs will be in dire need very shortly.