But it can be handled remotely, provided communication is a priority, says Christine Armbruster, PharmD, clinical pharmacist and ambulatory care/transitions of care pharmacist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
“Throughout the whole pandemic, communication is key with patients and case managers, as well as with other healthcare providers,” Armbruster says. “Check in with patients and make sure they have appropriate access to medications and healthcare.”
Pharmacists are available to help, as needed. “Understand that we play an important role, and we need to reassure patients and make sure they’re familiar with their access to medical offices, clinics, and telemedicine,” Armbruster says.
If needed, clinicians can visit patients’ homes to draw blood, or patients could visit a clinic where infection prevention and safety precautions are in place.
As part of infection prevention efforts during the pandemic, clinics would stagger patients to ensure there is physical distancing and a safe environment for patients, Armbruster says.
Many pharmacies also require staff and customers to wear masks, and they can provide free delivery services. “A lot of pharmacies and insurance plans have waived their limit for 30-day prescriptions,” Armbruster says. “Before, if someone requested a refill two weeks after the last prescription, it would be rejected for being too soon. Now, it’s easier to get those prescriptions.”
For example, if people want to grab a prescription refill at the same time they are picking up groceries, they can do this in one trip, she explains.
“Pharmacies can refill their prescriptions all at the same time. That minimizes the person’s trips and visits to the pharmacy,” she says.
Another option is mail-order prescriptions. “They’re also encouraging 90-day mail order of prescriptions, especially for chronic conditions,” Armbruster says.
Case managers can let patients know there are a variety of options available to help them access their medication safely and more easily than was available before.
“Case managers should reach out to their patients more frequently to check in because every patient situation is going to be different,” Armbruster says. “As case managers reach out to more patients in the community to make sure they’re familiar with resources available to them and have access, they can help patients contact their pharmacies and see if mail order is available. They also can give patients a list of pharmacies that will deliver medication.”
So many insurance plans are making exceptions for delivery that these services are available more now than they were pre-pandemic, Armbruster says.
Case managers also can reassure patients that pharmacists want to help them so they can call and ask them about their prescription orders, she adds.Medication management and access can be challenging when case managers and other providers cannot visit patients’ homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.