Health Law Monitor
CDC Issues New Guidance for Pharmacies
August 4, 2020
COVID-19 has prompted health care providers and facilities across the United States to re-evaluate their plans for evaluating and treating patients in the face of a global pandemic. Plans have been developed to not only to guide the actual provision of health care, but also general logistics focusing on how to safely ensure the delivery of care occurs.
Recognizing the vital part pharmacies play in the provision of medicines, therapeutics, vaccine and other critical health services to the public, the CDC issued guidelines to pharmacies and pharmacy technicians on how to safely provide such services to the public.1
In many states, face coverings are now required in all indoor businesses, although the age in which those face coverings are required varies from state to state.
Under CDC guidelines, everyone entering a pharmacy should wear a face covering for source control, although coverings should not be placed on children under the age of 2, anyone who has trouble breathing or is incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the masks without assistance.
Essential to the provision of pharmacy services to the public, the CDC has also recommended:
- Prescription intake, patient counseling and/or patient education should be conducted in ways to maintain social distancing and minimize the risk of exposure to pharmacy staff and patients. Those pharmacists providing patients with chronic disease management services, medication management services or services that do not require face-to-face encounters should make every effort to use telephone, telehealth or tele-pharmacy strategies.
- Develop ways to minimize direct contact with patients including avoiding handling insurance or benefit cards by having patients take a picture of the card for processing or read aloud the information that is needed.
- Encourage patients to use alternate methods for pick up to decrease exposure including use of home delivery, curbside pick up or drive through services.
- Those pharmacies providing routine clinical preventive services, including adult vaccinations, should evaluate the risk versus benefit of an in person encounter based upon local conditions, and utilize standard precautions and screening tools to evaluate for fever and symptoms prior to providing vaccinations. Use of eye precautions has been recommended in areas with moderate to substantial community transmissions. See Framework for Healthcare Systems Providing Non-COVID-19 Clinical Care During the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Importantly, with the increasing presence of pharmacies located within medical clinics or hospitals, the CDC has outlined additional steps to minimize risk to those customers visiting those locations. In addition to the recommendations above, the CDC also recommends that where possible, separate entrances be provided for clinic patients as opposed to pharmacy patrons. Otherwise, a clear path from the main door to the clinic, with partitions or other physical barriers to minimize contact with pharmacy customers, has been recommended.
COVID-19 has far reaching implications for all aspects of the medical industry. It is important for our health care clients to be on top of strategies applicable to all components of the delivery of health care.