Just as with the wider healthcare sector, COVID-19 has had a range of different impacts on the pharmacy sector and pharmacy jobs.
Eighteen months into a global pandemic, there are very few sectors of the economy and workforce that have not felt its effect, with some more heavily impacted than others.
As would be expected, the healthcare sector and healthcare workforce has become critical in both managing and mitigating the effects of COVID-19 across the community and for much of 2021 assisting with the vaccination rollout. Pharmacies and those in pharmacy jobs have been a definitive part of this.
Just as they have been involved with annual influenza vaccinations, pharmacists across the country have now become an intrinsic component of the COVID-19 vaccination rollout.
While initially expected to only administer AstraZeneca vaccinations, once more supplies of other approved vaccines are available, it is expected they will also have these available to them.
As we wrote about recently, the rise of e-Prescribing has proved a game-changer to help ensure people could continue to receive medications during rolling lockdowns across the country.
The Federal government’s concerted effort to bring forward and speed up the rollout of e-Prescriptions could not have been achieved without a massive effort from both GPs and pharmacies.
This concerted effort has paid dividends, with a hugely successful uptake of e-Prescriptions by Australians that looks likely to continue going forward.
While there will be parts of the community that will still require or prefer paper-based scripts, the pharmacy business (and how it manages scripts) has now worked through most of the initial teething problems, so this cultural shift will continue to reap efficiency and patient outcome rewards the more it is utilised.
Something that potentially links in well with e-Prescriptions is medication deliveries. Despite being an established part of the healthcare sector in countries like the US and New Zealand, the concept is still relatively new in Australia.
However, this looks set to change, partially in response to working our way through the pandemic and the need for more widespread delivery options for all kinds of essential items.
While we have all heard rumours about Amazon and its sophisticated logistics network potentially getting into the Australian pharmacy market, Chemist Warehouse has literally ‘dashed’ past them when it comes to home delivery.
In late August, it announced a new partnership with Doordash to deliver medications to homes within 24 hours. And with a network of drivers that reaches nearly 80% of Australians, this could prove a widely taken up service by those unable to get out to collect their own medicine.
While it will come with a cost, the convenience medication delivery offers for both pharmacists and patients, plus the extra safety lever it provides during lockdowns, means it has the potential to become an integral part of the GP-chemist-script process.
Shift to supermarkets
An unforeseen outcome of the pandemic has been a noticeable shift away from chemists to supermarkets when it comes to vitamin purchases. This became clearly evident when Blackmores delivered its annual report in August.
While this can be attributed to a generally a number of factors, namely a reduction in international tourists and students, linked to a fall in foot traffic to pharmacists, it could also be part of the more widespread move to online shopping.
What this means for pharmacists going forward is difficult to gauge until the economy and movement of people are no longer hampered or dampened by lockdowns, but it does send a shot across the bow to pharmacists that this is part of a long-term structural change they need to begin preparing for.
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