Like many other aspects of healthcare and other businesses across the globe, the specialty medication industry has been heavily affected by shelter in place mandates, the challenges associated in making appointments with healthcare providers, cost concerns, and other factors related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite these barriers, pharmacists and pharmacies continue to be one of the most accessible health care providers (HCPs) and most convenient locations for individuals to talk to someone about their healthcare.1
According to a report from Harvard University, outpatient visits have rebounded throughout the United States (U.S.), although still lower than previously seen. Recently, some specialty physician visits have resumed including dermatology and rheumatology, while others are still being impacted by COVID-19 such as pediatrics.2 This could be due to the restrictions that some of these offices have in place, such as a parent not being able to go into the exam room with their child. It is hard to predict a pattern for visits over the next few months given the discussions around a second wave of COVID-19 cases.
Specialty pharmacies may have a slight advantage over community pharmacies during these times, as they are often equipped with the resources to ship medications to patients. Community pharmacies, on the other hand, largely depend on patients picking up their medications at the store. Limiting access to specialty pharmacies allows their staff to take extra caution when packing and shipping medications to their customers in a timely manner.1
Pharmacies have been fortunate to be able to stock many of their patient’s maintenance medications, including specialty pharmaceuticals. At the beginning of COVID-19, some patients began stockpile their prescriptions to ensure they would have the supply they needed. This initial surge, in some cases, created temporary shortages of some specialty products such as Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) medications. Continually, pharmacists do an incredible job educating the general population of the negative implications of stockpiling and encouraged patients to routinely fill prescriptions to help keep patient adherence to their prescribed care plan high.
Biotech and pharmaceutical companies are working diligently to develop novel medications and vaccinations that will eventually be widely prescribed by specialty providers and dispensed by specialty pharmacies.1 With additional medications in the pipeline, physicians and pharmacies can expect an increased demand and workload as states begin to loosen their shelter in place orders. Having the proper tools to meet patient demand will be vital to keep our communities safe and healthy.
Electronic health record (EHR) companies, including Veradigm®, can be instrumental in helping physicians manage the process to secure the prescribed specialty medications. One example is Veradigm AccelRx™, which is an automated and comprehensive solution to help streamline specialty medication fulfillment. Click here for more information on Veradigm AccelRx.