To ensure members get their medication in the safest, most convenient way during the COVID-19 pandemic, Kaiser Permanente Northern California pharmacies have changed the way they do business while keeping the focus on fast, quality service.
Today, Northern California fulfills nearly 55% of its prescription requests via mail order, an uptick of nearly 20% from pre-pandemic levels.
“It’s exciting to reconfigure and transform our services to make the pharmacy experience as safe as possible for our members,” said Kathryn Brown, vice president of Pharmacy Services and Operations for Kaiser Permanente Northern California. “With telehealth at the forefront of care delivery, it only made sense to pivot to mail order and make it a one-stop shop from home.”
The mail order service now operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, an expansion of weekend hours to help meet demand during the pandemic. Members can sign up at KP.org to refill their prescriptions that arrive in 2 to 3 days.
Helping High-Risk Patients
Minimal contact prescription pickup and delivery options are available for high-risk patients with urgent or acute needs. This includes same-day delivery and curbside pickup, in which patients are offered a scheduled pick-up time at their local pharmacy where they wait in their car for a pharmacy employee in personal protective equipment to deliver their prescriptions. These 2 fulfillment methods now account for 15% of prescriptions.
An outreach strategy is in full swing to proactively protect high-risk members, including people who are over 65, immunocompromised, or have preexisting conditions. In advance to their prescription refill, a Kaiser Permanente employee calls or texts to inform them of the safest way to get prescriptions.
Although patients are encouraged to stay home to protect vulnerable populations, walk-in pharmacy services continue to be available but with a slightly different post-COVID-19 experience.
As members enter the facility, their temperatures are taken using thermal infrared technology. A mask and hand sanitizer are offered by a building ambassador. Upon entering the pharmacy, another ambassador gives them social distancing guidance.
“It’s exciting to reconfigure and transform our services to make the pharmacy experience as safe as possible for our members.”
To make physical distancing easier, furniture has been rearranged, floor stickers were placed 6 feet apart, and a limited number of people are allowed in the lobby at once.
Face-to-face interactions also look different. All pharmacy professionals wear face masks, gloves, and face shields. Plexiglass sneeze guards have been put in place at every workstation. All surfaces and high-touch objects including credit card processing machines and lobby chairs are sanitized regularly.
“The rate at which the organization implemented safeguards at all point-of-sale stations was lightning speed,” said Suzana Hong, outpatient pharmacy director at the Oakland Medical Center, who added that member feedback on the lobby experience has been very positive.
A digital tool, available by the end of the year, will allow members more direct control over their prescription orders They will be able to see where their prescription is in the fulfillment process in real time, get refill reminders and notifications when prescriptions are ready, and access more information about the services of specific pharmacy locations. Additional payment options such as Apple Pay will also become available.