18 Jan The effects of the pandemic on Pharmacy businesses
One thing is certain, the pandemic is impacting us all either personally and/or professionally. For the Australian Pharmacy industry, the last two years have been a challenge but has also brought about innovation in the industry.
Community pharmacies have been on the front-line of the pandemic, supporting Australia’s vaccine rollout and making sure their community can still access vital medications all through lockdowns with embracing digital technologies such as electronic prescription (e-script) and medication delivery services.
New digital technologies
During 2020, the pandemic forced businesses to pivot their operations and no more so than in the pharmacy industry. In May 2020, the first trial of paperless electronic prescription (e-script) was prescribed and dispensed. Clinicians who moved to online appointments could now easily prescribe medications electronically, send it to the patient for them to either send or take the e-script to their local pharmacy. The trials were very successful with 100,000 e-scripts filled in four months. The solution was then fast tracked and launched across Victoria in September 2020.
For pharmacies dispensing e-scripts, this put more reliance on the strength of the pharmacy’s information technology (IT) network making them more of an increased risk of cyber attacks and data breaches. If a cyber attack takes place, pharmacies may not be able to access personal computer’s, unable to dispense, make online Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme claims, order stock or even use their point of sale to sell stock. More importantly, a cyber attack may result in the release of confidential customer information and trigger a notifiable data breach. This means a pharmacy is legally obligated to notify both the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) and their customers.
Cyber insurance is increasingly becoming essential for a Pharmacy business. Over the last few years, the amount of personal data pharmacists have had to deal with has steadily increased. Between Privacy Act changes, My Health Record, Telehealth and e-prescriptions there is an increased onus on the pharmacist to ensure data security and manage the risks, and deal with any issues that occur.
E-scripts have been very successful with many Australians now using this technology. To help people further with accessibility to essential medications many pharmacies are now introducing a medication delivery service. This allows people to receive their important medications, who may otherwise struggle to get to their community pharmacy due to illness, disability or work commitments. Delivery of medications in Australia is still very new but is seen to be the way of the future and the pandemic has accelerated this need.
Supporting the vaccine rollout
Pharmacists are a critical frontline health service as we have seen with their participation in the COVID-19 vaccination rollout. Pharmacies have improved accessibility of the vaccine which helped vaccine uptake and States reaching vaccination rate targets.
Predicting pharmacies would end up participating in the delivery of the COVID-19 vaccine in Australia, Carollo Horton insurance had to proactively ensure their Professional Indemnity cover would extend to this new vaccine. Normal flu-type vaccines were already included. The cover was updated for chemists and pharmacies ready if they chose to participate in delivering of the COVID-19 vaccine in Australia.
Moving forward through 2022
As we move forward with the next phase of the Government’s strategy ‘Operation COVID Shield’ to try and vaccinate as many people and children who are eligible as possible and, as case numbers rise, we learn to ‘live with COVID,’ pharmacists need to prepare for workers falling ill with COVID-19, increased measures to protect staff and customers, potential increases in workers compensation claims and supply issues of not just vaccines and rapid antigen tests but other medications. It’s essential pharmacies prepare themselves as much as possible for these effects on their business and staff.
Many of the workers compensation regulators in each State or Territory provide useful information, tools and resources on workers compensation and the impacts of COVID-19. You can find a list and website links to workers compensation in each State and Territory here on the Fair Work Ombudsman website.
The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia website provides all the latest COVID-19 information for community pharmacy with links to key resources and updates for each State and Territory.
Throughout 2022, Carollo Horton will continue to monitor changes to the pharmacy industry so we can make sure pharmacists and pharmacies have the right level of insurance cover at all times. The pharmacy industry will continue to evolve, throughout the pandemic and beyond, as more digital technologies and more products and services are added to support our communities. At Carollo Horton we are actively making sure our insurance packages evolve with the industry and are continually working with pharmacy groups to listen to their needs so we can proactively adjust our product offerings.
The Carollo Horton team have substantial industry knowledge and expertise to be able to provide your pharmacy business with comprehensive advice and appropriate risk management and insurance solutions no matter where you’re located.
If you have any concerns regarding your insurance or would like a review of your insurances, contact us today.