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Pharmacies serving rural communities rise to meet an array of challenges with innovative solutions during COVID-19

Published on November 24, 2020

RITE AID Pharmacy on the corner of Broadway and John, Capitol Hill, Seattle.
RITE AID Pharmacy on the corner of Broadway and John, Capitol Hill, Seattle. Image Credit: Joe Mabel (CC ASA 3.0)

According to Don Downing, UW School of Pharmacy clinical professor, the COVID-19 crisis has ushered in a multitude of challenges for rural pharmacies, from shouldering the financial burden of a crippled economy to taking on a more involved, hands-on role with patients. “Rural pharmacies are under tremendous financial pressure due to significant reductions in compensation for filling prescriptions,” he said. “During the pandemic, many patients have not been seeing their medical providers for their existing chronic medical conditions, so pharmacists are challenged with making sure their patients stay on their medications.”

Kirk and Andrew Heinz (‘13), father & son owners and operators of Kirk’s Pharmacy in Eatonville, WA, can attest to those challenges, in addition to a host of other pandemic-driven hurdles. “By far, one of the biggest issues has been knowing or getting accurate and current information regarding COVID-19,” Kirk noted. “As pharmacists, we are always one of the first health care providers that people turn to for questions and information about this kind of issue. It has almost been like a second job trying to keep as up to date as possible with COVID-19 and the pandemic.”

For Rick McCoy, owner of Lopez Island Pharmacy, the logistical challenges associated with being the island’s only pharmacy have been overwhelming. In March, his business switched to curbside services only, and having a limited staff has created a daily race against the clock. “Simply filling prescriptions and taking them outside to the patient’s car is easy, but one of the first things we found out was how much more additional time it takes,” he said. “Our policy is that on all new prescriptions, the patient must meet with the pharmacist to go over their new medication. As a result, orders began to back up and with each passing day we were getting further and further behind.”


Continue reading at the UW School of Pharmacy website.

Originally written for the UW School of Pharmacy.
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