By Amanda Epp, CEO of ScriptDrop
Delivery services are more popular than ever, thanks to companies like Amazon that have made standard the “click to buy” behavior that is ubiquitous. This need for instant gratification has spilled over into several industries, with a growing desire for on-demand service. This includes prescription delivery.
But search the term on Google and you will get a mixed bag of results: chain pharmacies offering free shipping, digital pharmacies with unusual names, and even on-demand delivery services. It can be overwhelming. Patients are now growing accustomed to faster, on-demand service that fit their schedules, for example telemedicine which allows for anywhere and anytime care. With increasing patient demand comes the opportunity for new and improved innovations in technology for prescription delivery options. ScriptDrop is excited to be part of a growing ecosystem of healthcare IT solutions that have the capability to keep up with customer demand for new options and a more comprehensive offering for pharmacies. The company is navigating uncharted territory, but the timing is ripe for the industry to offer a reliable patient-initiated prescription delivery solution that ultimately allows patients to have better access to medication and outcomes.
By the beginning of 2020, interest in prescription delivery was already on the rise. Industry experts realized the positive impact prescription home delivery could have on medication adherence and, subsequently, overall healthcare spend. Patients, used to speedy home delivery thanks to Amazon, were wondering why pharmacies were not following suit. This was particularly the case for patients such as the elderly, those living in rural areas, or with limited mobility—even pharmacists and their staffs could benefit from a reliable delivery solution.
When COVID-19 hit it reshaped and restricted every aspect of our lives, including how we accessed our healthcare needs and medications. While states initially allowed free rein to shop for groceries and medicine throughout the pandemic, subsequently more people of all ages and risk groups began to contract the virus and more states shut down nonessential businesses. ScriptDrop experienced the changes firsthand with a significant increase in demand for our prescription delivery services. The findings were collected in our June report Bringing Healthcare Home: The Current State of Prescription Delivery. The result: More patients sought out delivery to reduce their exposure to contagion and prescription delivery became necessary for public health safety issues and even more so for those patients living in areas without any pharmacies at all.
The pandemic and movement restrictions have caused an unprecedented spike in prescription deliveries. A May story from The Wall Street Journal stated that during the last week of March, mail-order drug deliveries rose 21% from the previous year to bring their share of the prescription drug market to 5.8%, the highest share in at least two years. One of the key benefits of the spike in prescription deliveries is that greater delivery options can be the difference between a patient adhering to their drug regimen and giving up on it altogether, and for a pharmacy, it can reduce the ongoing challenge of medication abandonment.
Prescription delivery services can also empower independent pharmacies to stay competitive in a complex market. While online pharmacies continue to flood the pharmacy landscape and tout home delivery, the majority only offer shipping. Patients must wait between three and 14 days to receive their medications. In a McKinsey & Company poll, 46% of respondents abandoned online shopping carts due to “too long” shipping times. Pharmacies that offer a more robust set of service levels, such as same day delivery or a delivery status that updates directly in their system, can improve their standing in the market.
As healthcare trends towards a greater reliance on services that allow for safe social distancing, prescription delivery technologies and similar services will only increase in importance. Patients can seek out delivery options on their own or can ask their pharmacy whether they offer the service. Similarly, pharmacies or health systems can partner with a third-party provider to explore their options to increase volume and save valuable time. ScriptDrop is well positioned to help with both via innovative technology that connects pharmacies and patients directly to a network of courier partners across the country, making the prescription delivery process simple and seamless.
Whether it is a local neighborhood pharmacist or larger chain, in person prescription order and pick up are not going away any time soon, even in a post-pandemic world. The Wall Street Journal reported that data from health-research firm Iqvia Holdings Inc., noted that visits to the pharmacy still account for the bulk of the 3.8 billion prescriptions filled each year in the US. Prescription-drug sales at pharmacies totaled $336 billion in 2018.
However, precautions must remain in place with ongoing news reports issuing a warning of an expected “autumn surge” in COVID cases particularly during the fall flu season. This predicted second wave may set the tone for years to come on how all parties involved from prescription delivery services, pharmacists and ultimately patients navigate a new normal.
As the demand for home prescription delivery is expected to increase, it is due time for healthcare IT companies to up the ante with innovation and change for both pharmacies, which can incorporate these services into their everyday offerings, and patients, who need to reduce their exposure.
Prescription Delivery Will Become the New Normal
There is no disputing that the pandemic accelerated the rise of prescription delivery and demonstrated the significant need. The fact that major pharmacy chains like CVS and Walgreens implemented free delivery and that volunteer organizations began delivering medications for vulnerable patients made that need abundantly clear. COVID-19 has become an accelerator and driver of healthcare options that can make society more resilient in the face of the pandemic and even years to come.
Americans need prescription delivery now and will continue to benefit from it in the future. It is no longer a matter of convenience—it has become a public health necessity. Interest has been growing and that need will remain once COVID-19 disappears from the headlines. It is a win-win: Consumers benefit from real-world solutions that can be easily implemented and businesses can safely assume that an investment in delivery will benefit them in the long run.
About the Author:
Amanda Epp is the CEO and Founding Team Member at ScriptDrop, a medication access healthcare IT solution connecting pharmacies, couriers, providers, pharmaceutical manufacturers, and patients. Before joining ScriptDrop, Amanda rose through the ranks at CoverMyMeds, a healthcare IT company that sold for more than 1 billion dollars to McKesson Corporation in 2017. Amanda kicked off her healthcare career soon after earning her undergraduate degree in Healthcare Administration from Ohio University. Later, Amanda obtained her MBA from Franklin University.