Community Pharmacies and the COVID-19 Crisis
Betty Chaffee, PharmD, is owner and sole proprietor of BetterMyMeds, a Medication Management service devoted to helping people get the maximum benefit from their medications.
Yep, we're "socially distancing" ourselves to slow the spread of COVID-19. No trips to the fitness center, no worship services at churches, no school for children, teens, or young adults. Can't go out for dinner, or enjoy a community event. Many of us are even working from home.
There are plenty of people who are still required to go out in public, though. Grocery stores, some retail stores, hospitals, doctor's offices, and emergency responders all employ people who will be out in public and exposed to illness a whole lot more than most of us. You know who else? Your community pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, and receptionists.
You can help your pharmacy stay open!
Community pharmacists have always been your closest and most available health care professionals. And during this crisis, they will continue in that role. Community pharmacies will remain open to make sure patients get the medications and health advice they need. That's the reason most pharmacists chose their career -- they wanted to help patients. But that means that all those who work in the pharmacy risk exposure to contagious diseases every day. Pharmacy personnel can't "socially distance" themselves from their patients very easily.
And there's little in the way of protective equipment. Facemasks (only recommended for close contact with an infected person) aren't even available. Hand sanitizers are in short supply or unavailable. So your trusted pharmacy professionals are putting themselves on the line for you every day.
Many of us will find ourselves in a pharmacy at some point during this national crisis. We may need prescription or non-prescription medications for chronic health problem or to treat an acute illness, like COVID-19. Please consider your health, the health of other customers, and the health of your hardworking pharmacy professionals.
Here's what you can do:
Check ahead to make sure your prescription is ready for pickup. There's no reason to stand in line with others if when you get to the counter it's not even ready yet. Use your pharmacy's app or website if you can to limit the number of phone calls the busy staff needs to answer. But use the phone if you need to -- better to check ahead than stand in line needlessly.
If your pharmacy has a drive-thru, or offers delivery service, use it. Though you may have to pass a credit card or cash to the staff member, the contact will be much more limited than standing in line inside the pharmacy.
Please don't go into the pharmacy if you're not feeling well. If delivery and drive-thru aren't available at your pharmacy, and you're not feeling well, please ask a friend to pick up your item for you.
Please don't go into the pharmacy if you're at higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19. Other people waiting at the pharmacy counter may have been exposed to the new coronavirus, so ask a friend to help out.
Call for a refill several days before you're going to run out of medicine. Give your pharmacy professionals time to deal with insurance issues, prescription renewals, or ordering more of the medicine if needed.
Ask your pharmacist if your insurance will cover a 90-day supply during this crisis. Some insurance companies are allowing exceptions so that people don't have to go out so often.
Let's make sure everyone stays as healthy as possible during this time of crisis, including your pharmacy professionals. They want to be there to serve you, but they can only do it if we all help them stay healthy.