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Pharmacists are becoming trusted healthcare providers

The trend: Consumers trust pharmacists to take on more direct patient care responsibilities and deliver health guidance.

Digging into data: Findings from two recent surveys—one from Kilo Health and one from Wolters Kluwer—show how consumers want pharmacists to play a bigger role in their care journeys.

  • Consumers say they’d trust pharmacists (56%) even more than nurse practitioners (55%) and physician assistants (50%) to provide healthcare and prescribe medications in pharmacy and retail clinic settings, according to Wolters Kluwer’s survey.
  • 72% would be open to having medications prescribed by a specially-trained pharmacist rather than a doctor. Gen Z (78%) and millennials (80%) were most open to this, per Wolters Kluwer.
  • And consumers ages 18-24 (21%) are much more likely than the general population (13%) to turn to pharmacists for health advice, according to Kilo Health’s survey.

The new-era pharmacist: Pharmacists’ authority to prescribe medications, administer vaccines, and conduct tests has historically varied from state to state. But the pandemic ignited an “all-hands-on-deck” situation in which pharmacists took on many more patient-facing responsibilities.

  • Last July, the FDA authorized pharmacists to prescribe the COVID-19 antiviral treatment Paxlovid to give patients quicker access to the medication.
  • Excluding public health sites, over 90% of COVID-19 vaccinations provided through medical centers or pharmacies were delivered at pharmacies in 2021 and 2022, per recent IQVIA data.

Plus, CVS and Walgreens both took steps to empower pharmacists to practice at the top of their licenses during the pandemic.

  • CVS allowed pharmacists to process prescriptions remotely, freeing up their time to administer vaccines and conduct health screenings.
  • Walgreens eliminated all task-based metrics for retail pharmacy staff as part of their performance reviews.

Why it matters: More frequent touchpoints between patients and pharmacists triggered higher levels of trust.

  • Nearly 9 in 10 US consumers live within 5 miles of a community pharmacy.
  • Patients visit their community pharmacies nearly twice as often as their physicians or other qualified healthcare professionals.
  • 61% of US adults now want to get a greater range of health services from their local pharmacy, per CVS’ October 2022 Rx Industry Report.

Our take: Pharmacists are becoming a go-to healthcare source for consumers, from older patients who regularly take medications to younger generations who may not have a dedicated primary care physician. Expect to see savvy pharma brands that have relied on reaching consumers via physicians to run more marketing campaigns through local pharmacies.

This article originally appeared in Insider Intelligence's Digital Health Briefing—a daily recap of top stories reshaping the healthcare industry. Subscribe to have more hard-hitting takeaways delivered to your inbox daily.