Troy Trygstad, PharmD, PhD, MBA states that in the wake of the events of late winter and early spring 2020, characterized by the sudden disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, various industries underwent significant transformations. This period marked the onset of widespread changes, including the abrupt halt of the National Basketball Association season, celebrities announcing their COVID-19 diagnoses, and the closure of physician clinics, leading to a surge in panic-stricken patients seeking prescription refills and healthcare access. As a result, telemedicine gained momentum, restaurants shut down, and consumers had to adapt rapidly to the changing landscape.

Trygstad reflects on these shifts; a recent experience at Starbucks highlighted the evolution of customer service. Notably, the sight of numerous orders neatly arranged for pickup, placed through the app, resonated with the service model in retail pharmacies. This observation emphasized the parallels between retail establishments and pharmacies, both grappling with challenges and advantages in managing customer orders efficiently, be it through interactive voice response (IVR) systems or new applications. The rise of order-ahead functions in various businesses, akin to the long-standing practice in pharmacies, illustrated the shared challenges faced by customers, such as order discrepancies and waiting times. While the nature of the products differed, the underlying queuing dynamics remained similar. The analogy extended to the pharmacy's queuing strategies, encompassing diverse patient needs and complexities, ranging from standard counseling to specialized services and conditions. Looking ahead, pharmacies may need to refine their queuing and workflow strategies, considering factors like the desire for personalized services and the complexity of medical conditions. Patients' preferences, spanning from remote assistance to in-person interactions and self-service kiosks, will necessitate tailored approaches.

Moreover, the need to accommodate services like pharmaco-genetic consultations, test-and-treat offerings, and vaccination drives will further diversify queuing requirements. Pharmacies, accustomed to synchronizing medications monthly, must adapt their workflows to accommodate comprehensive plans of care, ensuring seamless delivery to patients and care teams. Additionally, the evolving landscape of pay-for-performance models and gap-closure initiatives will entail queuing patients for essential screenings, counseling sessions, and non-drug services, integrating IVR, apps, and standardized procedures for optimal patient interactions.

In essence, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of queuing strategies across sectors, bringing them in line with practices long established in pharmacies. As the dust settles, the pharmacy industry is poised to lead the way in queuing for product and service delivery, setting new standards in customer experience and efficiency.


Full article from Pharmacy Times here.

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