CVS tests technology for remote pharmacists to review prescriptions

CVS Health has equipped a majority of its 9,000 pharmacies with technology for its workers to review and enter prescription information without being in the store, The Wall Street Journal reported Dec. 4. 

The retail pharmacy chain said the technology maintains requirements for patient privacy as it allows its workforce — which, like most healthcare sectors, is in shortage — to focus on other job duties.

"It's really a way to make the processing of prescriptions much more efficient," CVS CEO Karen Lynch told the Journal

About 400 CVS pharmacists are testing the technology from central locations, their homes and pharmacy locations different from where patients are picking up their medications. How people pick up their prescriptions won't change, the company told the Journal

Most states don't allow pharmacists to work remotely, but if the testing period results in a green light, pharmacists could soon be performing tasks like verifying pill counts in bottles outside their job locations just from reviewing the weight of a pill tray after a pharmacy technician sends the information. 

Supplying enough pharmacists has been a struggle for years as retail chains have shrunk their operation hours — with some receiving fines for it — because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite efforts to hire more staff with bigger bonuses, the staffing issue may have roots deeper than COVID-19, as applications for PharmD programs are at their lowest rate in 18 years, and nearly the whole health sector struggles to retain enough pharmacy technicians. 

Some experts told the Journal they're skeptical of the new technology and its promise to free up pharmacists' time, but CVS' chief pharmacy officer Prem Shah, PharmD, said the initiative is focused on bolstering the company's workforce: "We have to win them back by creating a better environment."

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