Accessibility is at the heart of every independent pharmacy — but are you doing enough to meet the needs of all your patients?
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that pharmacists are the most accessible healthcare providers.
That accessibility doesn’t stop at ease of access. In the pharmacy, accessibility means providing equitable service to every patient, regardless of background, abilities, or circumstances.
This might mean providing medications, clinical care, and health-related information. It might also mean making accommodations for physical ability, language barriers, or communication differences.
By putting accessibility at the forefront of your pharmacy, you can empower your patients to engage with their treatments and make informed decisions about their health and well-being.
By extension, you can embrace the fundamental principle that healthcare is a right, not a privilege — and that every individual deserves a positive experience in the pharmacy.
Understanding Accessibility Needs in the Pharmacy
42.5 million Americans — 13.5% of the population — have a documented disability, according to the Pew Research Center. This includes people with hearing, vision, cognitive, mobility, or independent living difficulties.
But accessibility isn’t just about ability.
Accessibility also encompasses patients whose first language isn’t English. The U.S. Census reports that 67.8 million Americans — almost 20% of the population — speak a language other than English at home. For many of these patients, it may be uncomfortable to communicate exclusively in English.
As such, each of these groups faces unique challenges when accessing pharmacy services.
For example, disabled patients may encounter physical barriers that prevent them from coming to the pharmacy; seniors may not be able to read their prescription labels; and non-English speakers may not be able to translate medication instructions.
Accessibility is a serious issue, but you can be a part of making a difference.
By acknowledging the challenges your patients face and actively working for solutions, you can address the accessibility barriers in your pharmacy and pave the way for equitable access for all your patients.
Here are a few ways to do it:
1. Physical Ability Improvements
For most pharmacies, accessibility starts with physical ability. It makes sense, then, that you should take time to improve the physical spaces around your store.
There are a few ways to do this. Wheelchair ramps, spacious aisles, and clear signage can ensure that individuals of all abilities can navigate the pharmacy with ease.
These features not only cater to patients with mobility challenges, but they also benefit seniors and parents with strollers coming to the pharmacy.
Equally important are accessible parking spaces in close proximity to the pharmacy. Adjustable counters and service windows can also make interacting with your team much easier.
Outside of these improvements, you can offer flexible pick-up options for patients. Utilize a drive-thru, curbside pickup, or delivery service so patients can get what they need from the pharmacy without having to walk inside.
2. Inclusive Communication Strategies
All patients deserve clear and comprehensive health information, but they don’t all always get it.
This includes individuals with limited English proficiency and those with hearing impairments. If you want to make your pharmacy more accessible, then, find a way to make communication more clear.
To tackle language barriers, introduce signage, prescription labels, and medication instructions in the native languages of your patients. Recruit staff members who speak second languages and can more easily communicate.
For deaf or hard of hearing patients, provide written material for any pertinent health information — or, better yet, hire a team member fluent in American Sign Language (ASL).
You can also use visual aids — like icons and diagrams — to enhance understanding for patients when other measures don’t meet the mark.
3. Prescription Labeling + Medication Information
Clear and legible prescription labels are essential for all patients, but especially for those with visual impairments. For these patients, prescription labels can make or break a medication regimen and — by extension — a treatment plan.
To make the prescriptions more accessible, ensure that labels are printed in bold fonts with high-contrast colors.
Large print labels can also increase readability, along with braille labels, which offer tactile engagement for blind or otherwise visually impaired patients.
4. Technology and Digital Accessibility Tools
Finally, digital tools can be a great way to increase accessibility and provide additional convenience for patients.
Online prescription ordering and mobile apps for prescription refills are some of the best ways to do this. These tools empower patients to manage their medications (in the comfort of their homes), promote adherence, and streamline the prescription process.
Make sure that your digital tools offer a wide range of accessibility features, like voice commands, text-to-speech capabilities, and screen reader compatibility.
Voice-driven interactions can assist those with visual impairments, while text-to-speech features can make the pharmacy inclusive for those who struggle with reading.
Some pharmacy software systems offer accessibility features already built into the system, which makes the move to accessible services all the more easy for you.
Learn more about the available options on our Compare Software page.
In independent pharmacy, no one gets left behind — regardless of ability. If you want to make your pharmacy more inclusive and better serve each and every one of your patients, you should start with accessibility.
By making a few improvements to your operations, you can make the prescription process that much easier, convenient, and stress-free for your patients.
In turn, you can see higher customer satisfaction, better patient outcomes, and feel a strong sense that you’re doing your part to make pharmacy equitable for all.
Are you ready to take the first step?