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News | Independent Pharmacies Juggle New Meds, Old Woes; iA Unveils Automation Solutions and New Central Fill; Online Pharmacies Grow, Face Usability and Cost Challenges
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News | Independent Pharmacies Juggle New Meds, Old Woes; iA Unveils Automation Solutions and New Central Fill; Online Pharmacies Grow, Face Usability and Cost Challenges

Podcast | PTMR News February 28, 2024
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Let's take a look at what's happening in the world of pharmacy and healthcare.

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Independent Pharmacies Juggle New Meds, Old Woes: Shortages, Staffing & Tight Margins Persist

A new survey by the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) reveals a mixed bag for independent pharmacies. While they embrace new products like over-the-counter Narcan and oral contraceptives, ongoing challenges like drug shortages, high costs, and staffing difficulties paint a complex picture.

Among the findings:

Three-quarters of  the independent pharmacies surveyed stock Narcan, the opioid overdose reversal spray, but enthusiasm for the upcoming over-the-counter birth control pill is more cautious, with 42% intending to offer it and 44% seeking more information

90% of pharmacies surveyed plan to offer GLP-1 drugs for treating diabetes and obesity, nearly all face shortages and rely on paid claims instead of stocking up due to high costs and low reimbursements. CEO Doug Hoey warns this "counterintuitive predicament" hurts profit margins.

Adderall shortages remain prevalent (87%), and 67% of surveyed pharmacies struggle to fill positions, with pharmacy technicians most in demand.

Community access is at risk as low reimbursements, clawbacks, and patient steering threaten the accessibility of independent pharmacies, historically known as readily available healthcare providers.

iA Unveils Advanced Automation Solutions and New Central Fill Option 

iA, a company specializing in pharmacy automation, has announced a series of innovative solutions designed to streamline medication fulfillment and empower pharmacists.

This initiative emphasizes increased efficiency and accuracy, with advancements like the iA 4L Canister, offering pharmacies greater medication storage and dispensing capabilities. Additionally, the iA Smart Dispenser facilitates dispensing medications of various sizes, enhancing operational flexibility.

Further bolstering efficiency, the iA SmartPod leverages the 4L Canister to increase capacity and minimize refill frequency. To address packaging needs, iA introduces the iA Smart SecurePack, an automated system that integrates with their software suite, significantly reducing manual packaging tasks while ensuring medication distribution accuracy.

These solutions cater to pharmacies of all sizes, from independent community pharmacies to large retail chains. iA emphasizes its commitment to empower pharmacists by freeing them from routine tasks, allowing them to dedicate more time to patient care and strengthen the pharmacist-patient relationship. 

iA has also announced Shared Central Fulfillment, a cloud-based solution designed to boost efficiency and collaboration within the industry. This innovative platform allows existing centralized fulfillment centers to maximize their capacity by serving multiple pharmacies.

Through iA's NEXiA software and automation technology, Shared Central Fulfillment integrates prescription fulfillment for partner pharmacies, offering them several advantages, including improved efficiency and workflow; access to centralized fulfillment solutions that were previously out of reach for some pharmacies; and more time to dedicate to providing quality patient care.

Shared Central Fulfillment represents a step towards iA’s goal of supporting a sustainable work environment for pharmacists and ultimately enhancing their role in healthcare, while also fostering collaboration and accessibility within the pharmacy industry.

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Online Pharmacies Face Usability and Cost Challenges Despite Growth

While the popularity of online pharmacies continues to rise, new challenges are emerging, according to Software Advice’s Online Pharmacies Survey of over 700 patients, which compares data on the same topic from 2022. 

Patients are reporting declining satisfaction with app usability, with Gen Z users setting a higher bar for simplicity and functionality. Additionally, cost advantages previously associated with online pharmacies seem to be diminishing, potentially due to economic factors like inflation.

This trend highlights the need for developers and healthcare providers to prioritize user-friendliness in online pharmacy platforms. Additionally, healthcare providers should integrate e-prescribing capabilities to ensure seamless connection with online pharmacies and enhance patient satisfaction and adherence to medication. By addressing these challenges, online pharmacies can ensure long-term viability and contribute to improved patient outcomes.

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