Creating Change out of Challenge: COVID-19 was the impetus for curbside pharmacy, but the service will benefit patients long after the pandemic

Jun 23, 2020

Regional One Health is now offering curbside pharmacy services at our Outpatient Center, East Campus, Primary Care Specialists and South Third Primary Care pharmacies.

Patients can get their medications without leaving their vehicle, giving them a safe and convenient option during COVID-19 and in the future.

Our Outpatient Pharmacy strives to remove any barrier patients face to staying on their prescriptions. We also offer home delivery and other customer-friendly services.

COVID-19 has shone a spotlight on a health care challenge: preventing the spread of germs in environments where sick people come to get better.

As social distancing became the new normal, Regional One Health Vice President of Outpatient and Specialty Pharmacy Kay Ryan embraced the chance to tackle that dilemma by making improvements that will enhance service now and in the future.

Ryan knew patients still needed their prescriptions to stay well, but many were nervous about visiting a pharmacy and encountering people who might be ill. She asked the question, “Is there a way those patients could obtain their medications without ever going inside a building?”

For Ryan, offering new curbside pharmacy services and promoting the use of home delivery was the answer. “We’re thrilled to offer this,” she said. “It benefits people during COVID-19 when we are all practicing social distancing, and it also helps our patients in general because it makes it much easier and more convenient to pick up their medications.”

It also helps the health care system by reducing exposure risk for staff and preserving personal protective equipment. In fact, the latter is the specific challenge that led to curbside pharmacy.

Outpatient pharmacy is a high-traffic area, with the downtown location alone averaging 300 visits per day, so staff and patients were using a lot of masks for relatively quick transactions. It was an inefficient use of a valuable resource, and Ryan was tasked with finding a solution.

“We’re thrilled to offer this,” Vice President of Outpatient and Specialty Pharmacy Kay Ryan said. “It benefits people during COVID-19 when we are all practicing social distancing, and it also helps our patients in general because it makes it much easier and more convenient to pick up their medications.”

Alejandra Alvarez, Director of Regional One Health’s Center for Innovation, applauded her efforts as an example of how employees are responding to an unprecedented situation by creating improvements that help patients now and in the future.

Curbside pharmacy is now available at the Outpatient Center on Madison Avenue, East Campus on Quince Road, Primary Care Specialists on Walnut Grove Road, and South Third Primary Care, where the pharmacy is in the Cash Saver grocery store in the same shopping center.

Prescriptions are ordered by providers and filled by pharmacists the same way as always. When the patient is ready to pick up, they simply go to the pharmacy during regular business hours and follow the curbside pharmacy signs. At the Outpatient Center, they pull into a driveway adjacent to the facility. At the other locations, they use designated parking spots.

“Then, you just call the phone number on the sign and wait in your car, and someone will bring your medications out to you,” Ryan said. “You’ll need to show your ID, and if there’s a payment due the technician will ask you how you’re going to pay and take care of the transaction.”

Regional One Health’s experienced pharmacists still counsel patients and answer questions, they simply do it over the phone or at the patient’s car.

It’s a user-friendly system like the ones retailers developed to offer curbside pickup of essential products. Patients stay in their car for the entire transaction, and there are advantages over a traditional drive-through – patients with quick transactions come and go without getting stuck in line, and patients with longer transactions don’t feel pressured to hurry.

Ryan is excited that an innovation sparked by COVID-19 will pay lasting dividends.

People with chronic conditions or who are injured or ill may have a hard time getting into a pharmacy, or may be vulnerable to illnesses like the flu, colds, strep throat, etc. Even without a pandemic, curbside pharmacy helps patients stay safe while staying on their medications.

Curbside pharmacy is available at our Outpatient Center (shown here), East Campus and Primary Care Specialists. Patients simply follow the signs and call the phone number shown to have their medications delivered right to their vehicle.

“This has the potential of really increasing the use of our pharmacy system,” Ryan said. “It’s all about safety and convenience.”

Free home delivery of eligible medications is another option for those who don’t want to or can’t venture out. Patients with three prescriptions or more can call their pharmacy and ask to set up a delivery. Staff arranges a time and date, and the medication is delivered to the patient’s door.

“Payment is taken over the phone using a secure credit card system, and typically the delivery person will ask for a signature when the medication is delivered,” Ryan said. “We can arrange for zero-contact deliveries at the patient’s request.”

“It’s a wonderful service,” she added. “It’s great for patients who are sick or elderly, or for those who work all day and can’t get to the pharmacy easily.”

Regional One Health’s Outpatient Pharmacy strives to remove barriers patients face to staying on the medications they need to protect their health. Other options include 90-Day Supply, so patients only need to obtain prescriptions every three months; MedSync, which coordinates multiple medications to refill on the same day; and Automatic Refills, where prescriptions are automatically refilled and the patient receives a text message alert as a reminder.

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