The current pandemic has upended the community pharmacy business model, dovetailing with ongoing trends in care, technology, and marketing to create new roles and responsibilities for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians alike.
Shifting Pharmacy Technician Roles
With many pharmacies unable to survive solely by dispensing prescriptions, pharmacists have increasingly expanded clinical care beyond flu shots and strep tests, embracing such enhanced services as diabetes education, chronic disease management, Medication Therapy Management (MTM), and medication synchronization. (1)
As if adding those services wasn’t disruptive enough, the unprecedented approval of pharmacists to order and administer COVID-19 testing without physician collaboration then forced a further shift in daily workflow activities. (2)
As pharmacist roles changed, pharmacy technicians had to step up, moving from tasks centered around checkout, data intake, pharmaceutical returns, inventory, and packaging to direct patient care.
Pharmacy Techs On the Front Lines
On August 19, 2020, the Department of Health and Human Services issued an amendment to the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act, allowing pharmacy technicians to administer immunizations in all US states, regardless of state-specific rules, as long as specific requirements were met.
With the new rule came new opportunities.
From order entry and dispensing of medications to prescription verification, point-of-care testing, and administration of immunizations, pharmacy techs in 2021 are now unburdening pharmacists, streamlining workflow, and boosting revenues in both independent community pharmacies and retail pharmacy chains. They are also helping to attract new pharmacy customers, ensuring patient satisfaction and retention while differentiating their store from the competition. (3)
And that’s just for starters. In some cases, techs are also training for and assuming the role of community health worker, or CHW.
Pharmacy Techs in the Community
According to Hannah Fish, associate director of strategic initiatives at the National Community Pharmacists Association, CHWs serve as health liaisons in the community, focusing on health literacy, transportation, housing, and food security. “Especially with COVID and folks losing their job, pharmacy technicians serving as CHWs have been able to identify and connect individuals with resources that maybe they never have needed before or don’t know where to look, such as local food banks and Meals on Wheels,” she said. “These CHWs play an enormous role to help focus on those social determinants of health, so the pharmacist and pharmacy team can then manage the patient’s chronic disease.” (3)
CHWs also have a positive impact on a pharmacy’s bottom line, resulting in more filled prescriptions and better customer loyalty based on the care received from the techs. In-home visits mean CHWs can get referrals back to the pharmacist who can then intervene as needed.
The Way Forward
The transition of techs to direct patient care is a promising trend for the future. Coinciding with the pandemic but mindful of other factors, various states have initiated bills expanding the scope of practice for techs to maximize efficiency without compromising patient safety. (4)
Additionally, a recent study showed that increasing the skill set of techs helps reduce pharmacy operations costs – and not at the expense of pharmacists’ jobs. (4)
All of this means there’s definitely room for growth for a pharmacy technician’s role in the pharmacy world, and changing opportunities for techs to move up the health care career ladder and take on more leadership and management roles in the months ahead.
To learn more about the role of the Pharmacy Technician, download our Pharmacy Technician Handbook.