CVS Health has issued its annual Health Trends Report and, unsurprisingly, it foresees a growing role for community pharmacy in the years ahead. The past 12 months have been a watershed for members of the profession, with pharmacy operators across the United States stepping up to help patients and customers cope with fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Walgreens Boots Alliance, Kroger and Walmart, along with CVS and several other companies, were quick to answer the federal government’s call for assistance last spring in putting a coronavirus testing program in place. Today the pharmacy industry is focused on the crucial task of immunizing the population. The National Association of Chain Drug Stores has expressed confidence that, once adequate supplies of vaccines are available, pharmacies will be able to administer at least 100 million shots per month, bringing the nation substantially closer to the goal of achieving herd immunity.
Pharmacy’s ability to make important contributions in addressing the most serious public health crisis in a century, while at the same time continuing to meet the other needs of patients, highlights the assets it brings to the table — a presence in the community that ensures easy access to care; professionals who enjoy the trust of the people with whom they interact; and unmatched expertise in how pharmaceutical products affect the body. Those very real strengths put the profession front and center in maintaining the well-being of Americans, and give it the wherewithal to make pharmacies the locus of neighborhood health care.
As noted in the CVS report, the evolution of pharmacy is likely to be further shaped by advances in data science, including machine learning, and the adoption of a broader definition of the profession’s scope. Social determinants of health, including such factors as nutrition, housing and education, are one area in which the intervention of pharmacists can make a significant difference.
“We’ve found people are not only open and willing to share social needs with their pharmacists but in many cases they listen to and act on the advice and recommendations of pharmacists,” says Peter Simmons, vice president of transformation, pharmacy delivery and innovation at CVS. The retailer is now testing a program under which pharmacists provide information on community resources to selected Medicaid patients along with their prescriptions.
Pharmacy is clearly on the threshold of a golden age. As its performance during the COVID pandemic has amply demonstrated, the profession is ready and willing to do much more to promote the health and well-being of patients.