Social Distancing with a Central Dispensing Pharmacy

GroupHEALTH Benefit Solutions
On March 11, 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19, the “Coronavirus”, a pandemic. Since the virus came to Canada our health care workers have been doing their best to keep us safe. In an attempt to slow down and stop the spread of COVID-19, public health authorities have introduced public health orders that affect many aspects of our day-to-day life. At the core of these public health orders is social distancing. Many businesses have had to adapt the way they operate to facilitate it.

People still need their medications, so what are some options for social distancing when filling prescriptions?

Central Dispensing Pharmacies

Although they have been used for years many people are not familiar with central dispensing pharmacies (CDP) and how they work.
A central dispensing pharmacy is a full-service pharmacy. It dispenses and ships medication from a single location directly to customers. Many central dispensing pharmacies do not have a retail storefront. Instead they only interact with customers via telephone, websites or apps, and by courier or mail.

Some central dispensing pharmacies have locations in each province. Others have only a couple locations servicing a larger geographical area. Some use robotic technology to dispense prescriptions.

Central dispensing pharmacies are often used for filling prescriptions for maintenance medications. Maintenance medications are regular, predictable medications that plan members take on an ongoing basis to address a chronic health issue.

GroupHEALTH partners with TELUS Health Virtual Pharmacy to offer products called Managed Rx and Maintain Rx. Managed Rx provides plan members with higher coverage for choosing generic drugs and therapeutic alternatives, as well as ordering their prescriptions from Alliance Pharmacy (a central dispensing pharmacy). Maintain Rx requires plan members to order their maintenance medication from Alliance Pharmacy.

Social Distancing and Prescriptions

During the COVID-19 pandemic, using a central dispensing pharmacy is a great option to practice social distancing. With a central dispensing pharmacy, prescriptions are delivered via courier or mail directly to the patient’s door. This minimizes the physical interaction with pharmacy staff or other people purchasing prescriptions.

Unlike many newly established social distancing practices, central dispensing pharmacies were already doing it! Their processes are mature and reliable, after years or use and hundreds of thousands of prescriptions successfully filled. Typically, prescription drug deliveries require a signature, but during the pandemic the carrier may be forgoing the signature requirement to facilitate social distancing.

Why Using a Central Dispensing Pharmacy Makes Sense During A Pandemic

Using a central dispensing pharmacy has a lot of pros during regular times, but even more so during a pandemic.

  1. Maintain social distance – because patient counselling is conducted via telephone, and prescriptions are delivered via courier, social distancing is safer.
  2. Save money – with so many people temporarily laid off, it can be challenging to pay the bills. Central dispensing pharmacies deal with large volumes of prescriptions, so they can offer savings in ingredient costs. They also typically have no retail storefront, so they can offer lower dispensing fees. This also translates into lower costs. Both the plan sponsor (employer) and the plan member (if their plan doesn’t cover the full cost of prescription drugs) can save.
  3. Convenience – receiving maintenance medication directly to your door is very convenient. It saves a trip to the pharmacy. It saves you from buying unneeded items in the store while you’re waiting for your prescription to be filled. Some central dispensing pharmacies (like Alliance Pharmacy) also offer “refill reminders.” This helps prevent people from running out of their maintenance medication.
  4. Comfortable Patient Counselling – during this time of social distancing, visiting a local pharmacy may mean you cannot have the same privacy that you typically have while receiving patient counselling. Pharmacists are also practicing social distancing, so quiet, close conversation is not possible. By using a central dispensing pharmacy, you can talk comfortably with a pharmacist on the telephone, in the privacy of your own home.

Good Advice is Key

In this time of social distancing, using a central dispensing pharmacy can be a great option. If you’d like more information about adding a central dispensing pharmacy option to your employee benefits plan, or how it can help save money for your plan, we’re here to help.

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