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Disclosures: Jitu Patel is chief pharmacist and compliance officer at Medly Pharmacy.
July 28, 2020
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Optometrists shift to digital pharmacy services during pandemic

Disclosures: Jitu Patel is chief pharmacist and compliance officer at Medly Pharmacy.
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The COVID-19 pandemic has forced health care professionals to embrace digital technology, and optometrists have been no exception.

Across the country, they continue to find ways to adapt to the “new normal,” with many practicing telemedicine for the first time.

In addition to providing patient care through telehealth, optometrists are making the shift to digital pharmacies, some like Medly, which offers full pharmacy services and free same-day prescription delivery through a mobile app.

Digital pharmacy helps address concerns surrounding medication adherence, medication management and innovative patient care, and, for many, once they experience the efficacy and convenience of a digital pharmacy, they will not go back, even long after the pandemic is over.

Medication adherence

Jitu Patel
Jitu Patel

As a pharmacist, I have witnessed first-hand how patients have found it challenging to get to the pharmacy even before the pandemic. Reasons included everything from logistical limitations to simply forgetting to run the errand. However, in today’s world, where the idea of stepping foot into a pharmacy could mean being exposed to COVID-19, there are many patients who are simply opting out altogether.

The most common trend we have seen around neglected medication is for chronic eye conditions. While this could be due to the reasons mentioned earlier, another factor is that they simply are unable to get in touch with their optometrists. In these scenarios, if a digital pharmacy has always-on pharmacist support, the pharmacy can reach out directly to the doctor and coordinate delivery that can be tracked by both parties until it reaches the patient’s door.

Alternatively, we have also seen a number of prescription increases for acute eye conditions like red eye. A digital pharmacy can save time for both the patient and optometrist and can also work directly with insurance companies. If there are any concerns during the use of the medication, patients can also report their symptoms to the pharmacists who can then connect with the optometrist to adjust the dosage if needed.

Medication management

More elderly patients are using digital pharmacy services during the pandemic, particularly for glaucoma medication. Because it is often difficult for these patients to make the trip to a local pharmacy, and they are among the most vulnerable members of our community, many have taken advantage of our app to order and keep track of medications. Oftentimes, family members will use the app after gaining access to loved ones’ prescriptions to not only track the arrival of the medication, but also chat with the pharmacist to ask questions to better understand any needs associated with the medication.

Digital pharmacies can reach out to patients when a refill is due and connect with the doctor to fill the prescription. This takes the burden off of the optometrist’s office staff, in addition to patients and their care givers.

Looking ahead

Digital pharmacy personalizes every aspect of the care journey, from working directly with patients’ insurance companies to finding co-pay and manufacturer discount programs to eliminating logistical challenges. By simplifying the prescription process for both the provider and patient, doctors can deliver better care.

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Jitu Patel is chief pharmacist and compliance officer at Medly Pharmacy.