2.4.20 - John Romano Shipping: Going the Distance for Patients and Pharmacies

Imagine you live in a small, cozy town (perhaps you already do). You’ve just been prescribed an antibiotic for severe conjunctivitis.

But the local pharmacy closed months ago. The grocery store doesn’t offer pharmacy services. Your prescription was filled by the closest pharmacy – which is thirty miles away. And your car is in the shop.

You can’t get a ride, but you need that antibiotic now. At your wit’s end, you call the pharmacy that has your medication to ask about your options.

As luck would have it, that independent pharmacy offers free shipping. They make all the arrangements, and your antibiotic ointment shows up at your door a day later.

That’s the difference shipping can make: while next-day, one-day, and on-demand delivery options provide huge benefits to patients, shipping solutions allow pharmacies to extend their reach even further.

Shipping Benefits Patients

The scenario above is an example of a “pharmacy desert.” Based on the concept of food deserts, or areas without any easily reachable grocery stores, pharmacy deserts lack pharmacy services.[1] These all-too-common deserts are usually the result of store closures. One study found that 1 in 8 pharmacies closed between 2009 and 2015, and that closures tended to happen in low-income rural and urban areas.[2] The people who live in these areas may not have reliable transportation, so leaving their neighborhoods to find the next-closest pharmacy isn’t an option. Or, even if patients do have transportation, the next-closest pharmacy might be an hour’s drive away.

As a result of pharmacy closures and subsequent “desert” conditions, prescription medication access is limited for huge numbers of patients – or has disappeared altogether. Unsurprisingly, these situations cause prescription abandonment and a decline in adherence to therapy. Both impact elderly patients, who are more likely to take several daily medications and may be loyal customers of a specific pharmacy location.[3] For them, nonadherence is dangerous: failing to take medication for heart conditions or diabetes puts them at serious health risk.

Shipping can be valuable even for patients who don’t experience the normal causes of prescription abandonment, though. People who travel a great deal typically have to transfer their prescriptions from pharmacy to pharmacy. With shipping, they could stick with their “home” store throughout the year, avoid the annoying task of transfers, and experience greater continuity of therapy. 

Shipping Benefits Pharmacies

It’s clear that shipping solutions can make a difference to patients, but investing in shipping also benefits pharmacies. Pharmacies – particularly independents – experienced a sharp decline between 2007 and 2009 and remain at risk in the current market.[4] Shipping can be an important differentiator: it helps pharmacies attract new customers, keep relationships with current customers, boost overall volume, and ultimately increase revenue.

Shipping isn’t always easy to set up, though, which is why ScriptDrop’s solution can be a boon to business by helping your pharmacy maintain fair rates for shipping costs.

The benefits stack up: pharmacies retain control over which service level is chosen for each shipment. If a shipment is made in error, cancellations are easy. Invoices are monthly, instead of per shipping label. Perhaps best of all, pharmacies that use ScriptDrop-integrated software get the added bonuses of increased efficiency and transparency: efficiency in being able to set up shipping in-workflow instead of stepping away to a different platform, and transparency thanks to chain of custody delivery details fed back into the pharmacy system. In the event of an audit, this information is invaluable.

Shipping Benefits Everyone

As the pharmacy landscape continues to shift, patients and the pharmacies that serve them can both benefit from a shipping solution. Patients get continued access to prescriptions. Pharmacies reach more patients and differentiate themselves in a complex marketplace. In short, shipping can make a difference across the healthcare landscape – and that’s something that benefits us all.

Are you interested in shipping and are affiliated with a pharmacy that already partners with ScriptDrop? Reach out at john@scriptdrop.co or to your account manager for more information.

Not partnered with us but curious about our shipping and couriered delivery solutions? Let us know!

[1] Pednekar, Priti, and Andrew Peterson. “Mapping Pharmacy Deserts and Determining Accessibility to Community Pharmacy Services for Elderly Enrolled in a State Pharmaceutical Assistance Program.” PLOS ONE, (4 June 2018,). journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0198173.

[2] Guadamuz JS, Alexander GC, Zenk SN, Qato DM. Assessment of Pharmacy Closures in the United States From 2009 Through 2015. JAMA Intern Med. 2020;180(1):157–160. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2019.4588

[3] Qato, Dima M et al. “Association Between Pharmacy Closures and Adherence to Cardiovascular Medications Among Older US Adults.” JAMA network open vol. 2,4 e192606. 5 Apr. 2019, doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.2606

[4] Salako, Abiodun, et al. “Update: Independently Owned Pharmacy Closures in Rural America, 2003-2018.” RUPRI Center for Rural Health Policy Analysis, University of Iowa, July 2018, rupri.public-health.uiowa.edu/publications/policybriefs/2018/2018