Coronavirus rages on. While many of us have quarantined ourselves in our homes for the time being, there are some who don’t have that option. Among them, pharmacists.
Pharmacists provide the definition of an essential service. Many people couldn’t survive without their prescription medication. For years, you’ve cared for your patients. But, more than that, you care about them.
In our previous article, we discussed how you should respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and how you can continue to help your patients get the medications and services they need. For this article, we’re expanding on that topic, addressing what you can do to keep yourself and your patients safer during this time.
How to Keep Your Patients (and Yourself) Safe During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Anyone who has ever been on an airplane knows the procedure. If the plane loses cabin pressure, oxygen masks drop down from a compartment in the ceiling. According to the safety instructions, you are supposed to secure your own mask before helping others. Statistically, more lives are saved that way.
The same principle applies to this pandemic. You have to be sure that, while you’re doing your best to help your patients, you’re also protecting yourself. We’ve known many, many selfless pharmacists out there who always wish to put their patients first. But if you’re incapacitated with this disease, who will help the hundreds of people (if not more) counting on you?
Move Toward Delivery, Curbside & Drive-Thru Service Only
Many businesses across the country have closed their stores during this time — often under pressure from local leadership to do so. Even the ones deemed essential, like grocery stores and pharmacies, are limiting access and reworking their hours. In the United Kingdom, many pharmacies are limiting the number of patients who can enter at a time. But even that might not be enough.
The National Institute of Health has revealed that this coronavirus strain can survive on surfaces for a substantial length of time — up to four hours on copper, 24 hours on cardboard, and two to three days on plastic and stainless steel. That means that if just one person carrying the virus came into your store and grabbed something off the shelf, your store could be compromised for days.
Consider moving toward delivery, curbside service, and — for those who have one — drive-thru for the time being. You’ll cut down on your chances of exposure while also keeping your patients safer.
For example, The Medicine Shoppe in Hutchison, KS recently began offering curbside service, even for their clinical care:
Lacey is giving a patient a pneumonia shot “curbside style”. 💉 pic.twitter.com/fIMgRJ7HwO
— The Medicine Shoppe (@MedicineShoppeK) March 24, 2020
Sanitize Before & After ALL Patient Interactions
Among the recommendations we’ve seen online, this is one that really struck a chord: Don’t try to avoid catching the coronavirus. Instead, assume you have it and try not to spread it. Shifting your thinking also shifts your actions and your accountability.
To that end, you have no idea what you come in contact with during the day. To keep yourself and your patients safe, wash or sanitize your hands before and after each patient you interact with. Every piece of paper you touch, every bag you hand over, every dollar bill you hold — wash your hands. It will seem excessive. It could also be the difference between a normal day and a hospital stay — or worse — for you and your patients.
If you have a ready supply of protective equipment, like gloves, feel free to use them. However, in order for them to be effective, you would need to change them after you touch literally anything. Hand washing and sanitizing is just as effective and far more cost efficient.
Enroll At-Risk or Symptomatic Patients in Med Sync
Identify patients over the age of 65 and advise them to enroll in med sync if they aren’t enrolled already. Same goes for immunocompromised patients. This will greatly reduce the number of trips they make to your pharmacy, reducing risk of exposure to the virus. Med sync also helps make your delivery process as efficient as possible, which will be invaluable as social distancing continues.
Welcome to the front lines of the battle against the coronavirus. As a pharmacy, your role is to protect and strengthen the health of the people in your community. In the midst of a pandemic, that role becomes even more important.
And now that most Americans — and, indeed, most of the world — are being advised to stay in their homes, pharmacies will have to get creative to continue providing the kind of care their patients deserve. But they will — you can count on that.